At LVA, protest, kindness and promise -- ‘Parkland was a wakeup call for many’
“We Stand With Our Students,” was a message Lehigh Valley Academy emphasized March 14. While LVA did not partake in the nationwide school walkouts that took place to commemorate the 17 lives that were taken in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, students and faculty decided to take a different approach to spread awareness of this movement.
Over the past few weeks, a group of student leaders met with administrators to discuss possible activities that could be held that day. After hours of planning, the students decided to create a PSA to push for creating a positive and inclusive environment in school. In the PSA, students emphasized the 17 Acts of Kindness, which challenges students to perform 17 kind actions toward others as a means of honoring the 17 shooting victims.
Besides showing students in grades K-12 the PSA, students viewed a video and had a class discussion about school shootings and mental health awareness.
Many students enjoyed watching the videos and having the student-led discussion. Senior Ashley Brown said she found the discussion to be “meaningful and it allowed us to discuss a topic that is usually overlooked.”
Students were not the only ones who found the activity to be beneficial, Theory of Knowledge teacher Jacob Becker said, “The route we took at LVA regarding the 17 Minutes Walkout was to engage the students in the discussion surrounding safety. In my classroom, we held a discussion on potential warning signs, identifying bullying, and who to talk to should they have any immediate concerns. I was impressed with the candor with which our students discussed pertinent issues and were able to consider all sides of the issue respectfully. Overall, our students did a great job!”
However, not all students felt that their voices would be heard through the discussion. As a result, some students decided to conduct a protest. Students in grades 9 through 12 organized a Die-IN as an alternative to a Walk-Out. Isabelle Block said, “I was very upset when I found out that an event that was supposed to be about fighting for legislation that will end gun violence had been twisted into a push for awareness of school safety procedures and a positive and inclusive school culture … This seemed to imply that kindness and friendship are all that is necessary to prevent violence, which I find appalling.”
Miles Kwiatek, a 12th grader who did not take part in the protes, had a similar perspective. Kwiatek said, “The main problem is the fact that, in America, there are enough guns for every single person ... gun control policies could help to change that. Those in power have refused to do so, but I believe that the youth of America can use our voices, and our votes, to truly take action and save ourselves. Parkland was a wake-up call for many.”
As a part of the protest, students had originally wanted to lie down on the brick floor to symbolize the deaths lost to school shootings, but administration asked students to move to the cafeteria because their plan was a fire hazard. While students were upset that the fire risk hazard had stopped their original plans, this did not stop them from having their voices heard.
Alicia Burkhart said that she and many other students took part in the protest because “this is us – our student body – standing up and saying that we are done taking this lying down and that we need to stand up, and start a conversation about this.”
While not all students took part, those who did not partake in the protest said they admired their fellow students’ approach to the matter. Jorge Grullon said, “In regards to school shootings, as a student I am just fearful if the next school could be ours. I admire the way LVA took a stand and showed our support for the Parkland 17. Even though I did not take part in what the students had done, I still believe they did the right thing. I feel the student body took the correct approach, as well modified, and did not truly do anything that caused a grave disruption. I just hope change can be made.”