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'Walkout' aims to engage students



By ERIC WALKER ewalker@mayfield-messenger.com

Two student organizers of a planned "walkout" this morning at Graves County High School are taking a bipartisan approach to the issue of school safety.

Instead of copying today's National School Walkout aimed at seeking stricter gun laws, the two seniors at GCHS are focusing on empowering students to be more civically engaged in the matter of school safety.

"This isn't about taking away guns," Julianna Sims, a member of the school's Young Republicans, explained. "The goal and purpose of our walkout is to start a conversation for students and help them realize even though they're young, young people have been changing the world for some time."

School administrators will allow students to leave class at 10 a.m. and attend either the walkout rally or a prayer vigil in the high school gymnasium. Both are scheduled to last 19 minutes to remember the 17 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims as well as the two students killed in a January shooting at Marshall County High School.

Sims and Jacob Hansen said their plans are to hold a moment of silence for the 19 victims, as well as prayer and testimony.

They will also discuss ways to advocate against school violence by contacting state and U.S. legislators, and even provide a petition to overturn the 1990s Dickey Amendment, which prohibits the Centers for Disease Control from studying gun violence.

Hansen, a member of the school's Young Democrats, reiterated the walkout isn't about gun control, but that the sentiment behind the national walkout has skewed some perceptions of what they hope to do locally.

"We want more people to spread their opinions and talk about school safety so we can figure it out," he said. "That's how we begin something, by talking about it."

"We know there's no way to completely eradicate all violence," Sims said, "but this is just about empowering students to know that they're old enough to have an opinion."

Both stressed they are not promoting any particular agenda, as they have differing opinions on guns. But they also know finding a solution dwells somewhere between the polarizing black and white views.

And to get there means including many voices and ideas.

"I think students should be more included in the conversations," Sims added. "Students and teachers are the victims, and they've not been effectively included in conversations between adults and conversations between legislators."