In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, the impacted students became more than just victims; they became activists. The students from Douglas organized the March for Our Lives, a rally taking place March 24, and took to Twitter to advocate for stricter gun regulations.
Many major universities, including Northeastern, issued statements saying that participation in peaceful protests will not harm incoming students’ chances of admission. (You can find a growing list of these universities here.) However, some high schools, such as Needville High School in Texas, are responding differently. They are threatening to discipline students if they take part in student demonstrations.
While not all high schools have reacted this way, the reassurance that student activists will not jeopardize their future by participating in peaceful walk-outs has not been as widespread in high schools as it is in colleges. Why haven’t high schools been as eager to throw their support behind these students?
It is important to note that many of the universities promising to overlook marks on students’ record for participating in this movement are private universities, while most high schools that have students participating in these protests are public schools.
Public school officials may be afraid of media criticism as a result of a walk-out, or may not want to stir up controversy by taking a stance. However, that peaceful protests are about more than just gun control. They are about standing with the students of Douglas and helping them make their voices heard.
High school is about finding yourself and discovering who you want to be. Administrators should be doing all they can to encourage such exploration. By advocating for an issue important to them, these teenagers are learning how to make a meaningful impact on the world.
The students of Douglas inspired others all around the country. Young activists are beginning to realize that they, too, can make a difference. This spark should be encouraged, not extinguished.
Members of Generation Z and, to some extent, Millennials, have grown up in a unique environment. We have come of age in a country that is politically polarized, where mass shootings frequently make the news and the war on terror has made worldwide conflict a part of everyday life since our youth. Instead of becoming disheartened by these circumstances, students turned their grief into action. This is a truly amazing achievement that older generations should work to cultivate and promote.
The emergence of student activism has more benefits than the personal development of these specific teenagers. It extended to the news cycle, so the push for gun regulations is staying in the forefront of politicians’ and the public’s minds. It also helped to memorialize the victims of the shooting by using the tragedy as a platform for political change.
In addition to studying for classes, preparing for their futures and navigating the social arena that is high school, these individuals inspired our nation to push for and create real change. We cannot allow this movement to fade away, and we should use this as a turning point in the way that the world treats young activists.