Eastside students join rally over gun law reform
“It’s been a month and nothing has happened,” said Bishop High School Senior Class President Jordan Kost during a rally on campus as part of National School Walkout Day on Wednesday, March 14. Kost was referring to the tragedy at a Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that occurred on February 14, where 17 people were killed by a school shooter.
The students marched to honor those 17 people, and to demand safer schools and an end to gun violence.
Many students at the event said they felt they had to take this issue into their own hands, because no one else seems to be doing much about it.
Students from Inyo and Mono counties, from elementary to high school, joined the movement and held 17-minute protests at their schools on March 14. The names of the 17 who lost their lives were read aloud at each demonstration.
Nearly 100 students at Bishop High School walked out of classes to show their support. During the non-school sponsored rally, students were encouraged to speak their minds. Some students took advantage of the opportunity to shout pro-National Rifle Association (NRA) slogans. One student took the opportunity to shout, “There can’t be school shootings if there aren’t any schools.”
Some comments bordered on hate speech and those students will be disciplined, according to Superintendent Barry Simpson. Those who chose to walk out of class were not penalized.
Kost told the crowd it’s important to have conversations, to listen to all points of view, and that it’s also important to do so civilly.
Many protestors wore orange vests and sweaters, “Just like hunters do so they don’t get shot,” said an emotional Kost. “If it makes you uncomfortable, it should!”
Junior Maddy Hernandez said she is proud of her generation for standing up for what they believe in, especially without the permission of adults. It’s adults that made this mess that students have to clean up, she said.
There is not much being done about gun restrictions, stiffer background checks for those interested in purchasing a gun, or talking to troubled kids, said Harry Khurana, a BHS Senior who’s also a hunter. He said the latter is the responsibility of the school administration.
Senior Jacqui Miranda told The Sheet she didn’t feel like anything was being done to make schools safer after the Parkland shooting, especially by politicians.
Not many parents have expressed concern over campus safety, Simpson said. In fact, some local parents called Simpson to express their dismay that the district was not stopping the walkout.
Mammoth School District Superintendent Lois Klein told The Sheet that she is proud of the students for exercising their right to express their opinions.
A bright spot, if any, that can come from the tragedy has been students’ discourse with one another and being open to varying points of view, she said. “It has given them a voice.”
Lee Vining High School saw about 25 of its 34 students rally, said Mary DeForrest, the high school’s secretary.
Junior Caelen McQuilkin gave a speech and poems were read at the somber event.
Simpson said after the rally at BHS that it’s a difficult balancing act for the school to remain politically neutral while allowing the kids to express their First Amendment rights. He said the district applauds the student’s efforts.
In response to concerns about students’ safety after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump has advocated for arming teachers and allowing concealed weapons on school campuses. Simpson said that argument is a moot point in his district, as California recently passed legislation, Assembly Bill 424, banning staff from carrying guns on school campuses.
“Debating this issue locally is a waste of time as this is no longer a tool that we can legally use to protect our school campuses,” he said in a prepared statement.
Just days before the Parkland tragedy, Mammoth Unified School District formed a Safety Committee to address “gaps” in campus security. The nature of these gaps has not made public for safety reasons. Klein said the district is working with Mammoth Lakes Police Department, Social Services, Mammoth Hospital and other resources to develop protocol to best handle a school shooter situation or better yet, stop it before it arises.
DeForrest said that Lee Vining High School is very remote and sometimes takes law enforcement a long time to show for a call. An incident there could have very dire consequences, she said.
Both Klein and Simpson echoed the sentiment that no matter how many safety measures are taken and safeguards are put in place, campuses will never be impenetrable.