With the sound of the A Block bell, my stomach tightened. In 10 minutes, Natrona County High School students would walk onto the football field to show solidarity for victims of mass shootings, primarily the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida, shooting three weeks ago.
Leaving in the middle of a class was definitely not normal for me or other students.
The walkout was organized by Casper Youth for Change, which is a group of “students dedicated to the arts of activism and peaceful protest,” according to the group’s Facebook page. The event itself was designed to be a “peaceful gathering in a form of a walkout,” says the informational flyer.
The second class of the day began, this being my English class. My teacher, like others in the building, told the class what our homework was. She doesn’t normally do this until the end of class, but she wanted those of us who did walk out to know what we were missing. She also said that if we did walk out, she would have to mark us absent, a policy implemented by Natrona County School District officials.
When the clock struck 10, one student stood up and five slowly followed. The remainder of the class cast their eyes downwards and refused to look at those leaving. Once in the halls, we could see handfuls of students exiting the building as well.
More than 100 students gathered at the field. The event began with a speech by Casper Youth for Change member Kevin Milburn, who introduced Hunter Bullard, the group’s leader. She talked of school safety, how the gathering was focused away from gun control. She also gave calls to action for students. They included: preventing bullying in any way possible, assisting those with mental health issues and making school safety the “utmost priority.”
I believe the event was a first step to a safer Wyoming education system. Most participants, like junior Matt Tabor, saw that teenagers, even in Wyoming, can “do something to stop school shootings,” and by standing in solidarity for the fallen, a domino effect can begin the discussion on how to improve school safety policies. Students can further the discussion by contacting state representatives to press through legislation or by founding clubs and groups to spread information like Casper Youth for Change.
Overall, students can see, as said in Bullard’s speech when she quoted Michael Jackson at the end, “if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make the change.”