Valdosta High School Students Voice Opinions on Gun Violence

| March 14, 2018

VALDOSTA – A group of Valdosta High School students observed National School Walkout Day Wednesday morning.

These students organized the walkout with VHS Principal Dr. Janice Richardson. Students who signed up to participate were allowed to go outside the building for a few minutes during their advisement period for a moment of silence and to express their opinions on gun violence.

The name of each victim at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were read followed by a moment of silence for each.

VHS Juniors Raven Ford and Nyanda Walker-Potts then addressed their fellow students, faculty and members of the Valdosta Police Department.

“I am so proud of those who came out and took a stand with us,” Ford said. “We are here and we matter.”

“It’s easier to get a gun than a driver’s license,” Walker-Potts said. “What’s more important; a life or a gun? We’ve had enough. It’s hard where we live to talk about this kind of stuff. Don’t let people try to stop you if you think it’s important. We are fighting for our lives here.”

The event lasted for a total of 17 minutes with all students returning to class as soon as it ended.

Below is an article written by a Valdosta High School student regarding the event:

Standing Up by Walking Out
By: Raquel Goddard

Raven Ford and Nyanda Walker-Potts, two International Baccalaureate Juniors, addressed their classmates and guests at Valdosta High School on March 14th by delivering a speech about gun violence in front of their peers. Over two hundred students were in attendance, with VHS principal, Dr. Janice Richardson, Valdosta City Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Todd Cason, and Valdosta’s chief of police, Brian Childress respectfully standing with the student body. The event was a somber occasion, honoring those who died, and encouraging other teenagers to become involved.

In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida, the national gun debate was shocked back to life. Many citizens are distressed by the dismal lack of initiative taken by the U. S. Congress, after the short-lived discussion following the Las Vegas shooting. Many Americans hoped that a viable solution would become clear, yet with growing discord in the nation, hostilities surrounding the gun violence debate have been rising.

The gun control debate incited zeal from spirited teens across the country who are establishing political platforms and seeking reform. Teenagers decided to become engaged through a nation-wide walkout, with students across the country walking out of their classes for 17 minutes, a minute per Parkland victim, on March 14th. The walkout took place during advisement, which did not interfere with learning time, and with students dressed in orange to show solidarity.

Having organized Valdosta High School’s participation in the national walkout, I sat down with Walker-Potts and Ford so that they could help me better understand the national walkout.  Both Ford and Walker-Potts are elated by the participation on campus. Through this gesture they hope to bring awareness, get people talking, and even capture the attention of legislators. “We want to show the people in Florida and the victims’ families that they are not alone and that people are standing with them,” Ford explains.

“We want to honor the people who died and the people who survived that were a part of that. Not only with this shooting, but with all of the ones before that.” Walker-Potts adds.

The students of Stoneman-Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida, have become icons of this movement by taking on the political inertia that has prevented any serious discussion about common sense gun laws. Politicians and the NRA are in their sights as they work to bring about change, specifically by improving school safety.

Many detractors have criticized the Parkland teenagers by saying that they are taking advantage of a tragedy to push an agenda, which certainly seems inappropriate. Making a crisis appear not politicized requires a substantial degree of tactfulness.
With the recent shooting striking right at the heart of our equilibrium and leaving the country feeling emotional, I was wondering how the girls intended to remain respectful at school, while still making a powerful statement. The walk out, it seems, was always intended as a force for good. They explain, “The reason why we are pushing this quote-on-quote agenda is because of the tragedy. Something needs to be done and the reason why it needs to happen now is because everybody’s focus is on it. That and because when stuff does not change it keeps happening and the definition of insanity is repeatedly doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Naysayers have also said that young people should remain passive because it is a nuanced issue that they know nothing about. Ford and Walker-Potts disagree, saying that teenagers are the ones who should be speaking out because they are the ones under the most threat. Ford asserts, “Adults always say that kids should be more involved in their government, but as soon as we try to say something they tell us to sit down and shut up.”

Walker-Potts and Ford state that they were not prompted into action and that as soon as they heard about the event, they both looked at each other and immediately knew what the other was thinking. Having already been politically-savvy, their concern for school shootings acted as a catalyst towards their activism.

Even though the walk-out was diligently planned to be a positive show of support, it has been met with resentment from some who perhaps fear for their gun rights. “When we say ‘protesting gun violence’ they automatically think ‘pro-gun control’ – whether or not we agree that gun control is needed, that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about changing safety in schools, because no kid should go to school fearing that he or she is not going to make it home, and no parent should send their kids to school not knowing if they are going to see them alive again when they get home,” Walker-Potts continues.

While many believe that a group of kids do not have the gravitas to carry out a nationwide rally, it should be noted that every revolution in American history was sparked by passionate young people. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 26 years old when he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Changing the world is a young person’s prerogative, and it usually happens against the expressed desires of “the establishment”. Walker-Potts and Ford acknowledge that this movement could have national and historical implications.

Tired of being told to “act like adults” and then not being given the chance to try, students everywhere are taking a peaceful stand using civil disobedience. These protests serve as a reminder to politicians that they are beholden to the American people and their interests.

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About the Author:

Valdosta Today Editor-In-Chief
Filed in: Local News, News

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