Children, adults to protest together for peace in schools


Seymour High School students, teachers and staff will stand together this week against violence in schools and in support of peace, understanding and acceptance of differences.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, all students and adults at the school will gather throughout the hallways and take part in a student-led program to address issues of violence, mental health and how students can get involved in bringing about positive change.

Sophomore Luke Turner, with help from some of his classmates and administrators at the high school, organized the event as a way for students to speak out in a safe way about topics that are being discussed all across the nation.

After watching the disturbing coverage of the Parkland, Florida, high school shootings last month that left 17 dead, Turner felt called to take action and find a way to get involved in the discussion in a civil and productive way.

Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, also is the day of the planned ENOUGH National School Walkout for students and school faculty to demand Congress pass tighter gun control laws.

“There is a movement involving a lot of students across the nation just to try to get their voices heard in some way, shape or form,” Turner said. “I think it’s incredibly inspiring to see kids taking a big stand for what they believe in.”

Turner is a member of student government and involved in other clubs and organizations at the school and in the community.

“I’ve always just wanted to be able to have my voice heard and to be able to make some kind of difference, whether it’s small, just here at Seymour High School in my classroom or if it’s joining a national movement like this one,” he said.

He decided having 1,700 people walk out of Seymour High School at one time would be too chaotic and could present a safety issue.

“I wanted to make sure that anything that was done is as safe as possible, so I think between our efforts we’ve come together and made a very good plan that can involve every student,” he said. “It’s non-partisan, and it’s just a good, informative type of event.”

Student speakers will discuss bullying, diversity, mental health, and what resources are available to help students cope with problems they may be facing. The program will be translated to different languages so that all students are included in the message.

“This isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue. This isn’t a black or white or Latino or Native American type of issue. This is something that effects every single person at this school,” Turner said.

The program also will serve as a voter registration drive for students who are 18 and faculty so that they can get involved in government and electing officials who help make laws.

As a student, Turner said his main priority should be learning things like how to solve quadratic equations in algebra, not having to worry about his safety.

Although he knows the school is doing what it can to protect students, he also believes a conversation needs to happen that involves student voices.

“Something should have happened after Columbine, something should have happened after Sandy Hook and something better happen after this,” he said. “I want to make sure that our local legislators and our congressmen in D.C. know that this isn’t just going to go away. Students and people all across the community need to know they have that voice.”

Assistant Principal Talmadge Reasoner described Wednesday’s event as “unifying,” in bringing students and adults together with the students being the driving force and voice behind the message.

He said it’s also a way for students to better understand civil debate and see what it can accomplish.

The event is a way to help tear down barriers between different groups so they don’t feel isolated or alone, he added.

“There are ideas on both sides of this topic of violence,” Reasoner said. “We wanted to find some commonalities that will resonate with everyone regardless of where they stand on specific issues like guns, like mental health, any of those kinds of things. What can we do that says, ‘Hey, we may not agree in these particular areas on how to address these issues, but we can all agree on this. I think everybody can get behind being unified and peace.”

Reasoner said the students will be heard.

“What they are saying is this shouldn’t have to happen,” he said of school violence. “It has to stop, and there are ways we can make this stop or at least set it up such so that it’s going to stop.”

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