After the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students around the country were galvanized into advocating for common sense gun safety measures.
The students of Parkland were precise in their strategy. They advocated for legislative solutions to gun violence:
— anne (@chelmarner) March 14, 2018
Students bravely confronted the National Rifle Association and its financial interest in preventing any gun control measures:
Student Cameron Kasky asks Marco Rubio whether he will pledge not to take any more NRA money pic.twitter.com/kJi1Tot2YT
— Axios (@axios) February 22, 2018
In the past 24 hours, these companies have ended their relationship with the @NRA:
Alamo Rent A Car
National Rent A Car
Enterprise Rent A Car
First National Bank of Omaha#BoycottNRA
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) February 23, 2018
Basically, these students were getting stuff DONE.
– forced CNN town hall
– got new commitments from Rubio
– pressured POTUS to call for bump stock ban
– led advertisers to leave NRA
– dragged D'Souza, Ingraham, O'Reilly online
– saw Florida aide fired for lies
– raised *millions* for march
It's been 9 days.
— Isaac Saul (@Ike_Saul) February 23, 2018
They aimed to open up conversation about gun control and remind students that as they were the ones effected by gun violence in schools, their voices were important. One of the first wide-spread coordinated student events was the mass walkout on March 14, 2017.
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) March 12, 2018
Students used the opportunity to speak their hearts about the anxiety of going to school in the age of mass-shootings:
i am mortified at the trauma that has been spread across our country. i hope my words can fuel the engine in promoting change. speak up for what you believe in. we are students. we are victims. and we are change. #neveragainmovement #schoolwalkout pic.twitter.com/eBELRAc67f
— Grace Yoo (@gggyoo) March 14, 2018
Outpourings of support were everywhere, with the media, politicians, and parents awed at the students’ level of civic engagement.
My sister has been staying home from school cause she’s sick and my mom said HAS to go to school tomorrow because she cannot miss participating in tomorrow’s #schoolwalkout we love a supporting parent!!!
— beatris (@baetrissss) March 13, 2018
— Ruthanne Bell (@swedeadeline) March 15, 2018
But schools were much less supportive.
— emilia (@emiliaisshook) March 14, 2018
I'm having trouble getting over the competing tornado drill at the middle school in Broken Arrow, OK that reportedly started at 10 a.m. and lasted some 17 minutes, with students needing to shelter in place and not step out. Timing! https://t.co/WkO1vb8aL6
— Nancy Garcia (@GarciaNancy) March 17, 2018
In rural Arkansas, three students had the fortitude to walk out of their classes for 17 minutes. The response of the school was telling:
My kid and two other students walked out of their rural, very conservative, public school for 17 minutes today. They were given two punishment options. They chose corporal punishment. This generation is not playing around. #walkout
— Jerusalem Greer (@JerusalemGreer) March 14, 2018
The students were out of class for 17 minutes, calling attention to the fact that the simple act of going to school is fraught with danger and anxiety. They were pointing out the extreme apathy towards fixing the problem.
Both choices the school district offered were problematic. Two days of in-school suspension means two whole days away from assignments, instruction, and classroom discussion. Corporal punishment means that students protesting an educational environment full of violence were subjected to violence by their educators.
Corporal punishment is astonishingly still allowed in 22 states in the U.S.
Apparently it's down to 22 states. So less than half. Still quite a lot.
— TC Harris (@q_aurelius) March 15, 2018
The Daily Beast reached out to one of the students, Wylie Greer, for a statement. Greer shared how the other students were reacting to his walking out to protest gun violence:
‘Many students were vocally insulting and degrading to the idea of the walk-out and anyone who would participate. At 10:00, I walked out of my classroom to a few gaped mouths and more than a few scowls.’
Soon, as two other students joined Greer in front of the school, the principal (Steve Landers)G, approached:
‘We sat outside the front of the building and were approached first by the principal, who asked us “if he could help us” and “if we understood that there would be consequences.” After we answered affirmatively, he went back inside.’
When they returned to class:
‘…all three of us were called individually to talk with the dean-of-students. He offered us two choices of punishment, both of which had to be approved by our parents. We would either suffer two ‘swats’ from a paddle or two days of in-school suspension. All three of us chose the paddling, with the support of our parents.’
Greer describes the punishment itself:
‘I received my punishment during 6th period. The dean-of-students carried it out while the assistant principal witnessed. The punishment was not dealt with malice or cruelty, in fact, I have the utmost respect for all the adults involved. They were merely doing their job as the school board and school policy dictated. The ‘swats’ were not painful or injuring. It was nothing more than a temporary sting on my thighs.’
Shockingly, the dean-of-students ended the punishment with a threat:
‘The dean-of-students did stress however that not all punishments like this ended this way.’
Wylie Greer sums up his experience, advocating for the end of corporal punishment in schools:
‘I believe that corporal punishment has no place in schools, even if it wasn’t painful to me. The idea that violence should be used against someone who was protesting violence as a means to discipline them is appalling. I hope that this is changed, in Greenbrier, and across the country.’
Twitter has been hugely supportive of his brave choice:
.@AsaHutchinson A school administrator in Greenbrier, Arkansas paddled students who participated in the National School Walkout. This is shameful and violent. What will you do to reprimand them and end this vile practice? We’re waiting.
— Gort (@DrugstorCowboy) March 17, 2018
I’m sorry, but what the hell?
— Rachel Held Evans (@rachelheldevans) March 14, 2018
Oh lady. I can't believe this is still a thing, but I'm so, so proud of W and the two other students for standing up for what they believe in.
— Cara Meredith (@caramac54) March 14, 2018
I can’t fathom the strength of character and bravery of your kid and the other students.
— Peter N. Horton (@Peter_Horton) March 15, 2018
Very proud of your kid & the other two who had the courage to walkout knowing they would be punished. Also kudos to parents like you who support their children. The school system, superintendent & school administration should all be totally ashamed of punishing students for this.
— Denise (@goheels1984) March 15, 2018
Featured image: Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty