Illinois Students Participate In School Walk Outs, Demand Gun Law Reforms
Students across the state participated in a national school walk-out on Wednesday. A sophomore at the University of Illinois Laboratory High School, Salma El-Naggar, said she helped organize a demonstration at the Urbana school to memorialize the 17 people who were murdered by a gunman last month during a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida. The demonstration was also intended, she said, to spotlight the need for more gun control measures.
The walk-outs took place on the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Speaking on the Wednesday broadcast of The 21st, a statewide daily talk show, El-Naggar said participants in the Uni High walk-out stood in silence for 17 minutes outside the school building. She said some students carried signs that listed the names of those who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. The experience was a moment of reflection, El-Naggar said.
“I was thinking, wow, that literally could be the people standing next to me if this issue does not get resolved and if we don’t have gun control or gun reform laws,” she said. “It was like a reality check of how serious and important this issue is.”
She said school staff were supportive of the walk-out, but the demonstration was organized entirely by students at the high school. El-Naggar said more students participated in the demonstration than she expected.
The walk-outs across the state occurred just a day after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a bill that if enacted would have required the state to license and regulate gun stores in Illinois. El-Naggar said she’s frustrated by the lack of gun control action on the part of lawmakers.
“Me, personally, I don’t understand how they’re not getting the fact this is important. There has to be control on guns,” she said.
Oak Park and River Forest High School senior Ryan Jansen estimated that at least 1,000 students participated in a walk-out at the suburban Chicago high school on Wednesday. Since the mass shooting in Parkland last month, Jansen said more students are engaged in conversation around gun control measures. He said not all the students agree on what should be done, but the dialogue is still productive.
“Right now, I’ve noticed a good dialogue taking place and students kind of discussing with one another different perspectives and kind of becoming more sophisticated in their approach to this topic,” Jansen said.
Both Jansen and El-Naggar said students in their respective districts are planning demonstrations demanding that gun control measures be enacted. Marches are planned for March 24 and a full-day demonstration is set to take place on April 20 -- the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. El-Naggar said the April event will feature a workshop to educate students about the current gun control laws and how to lobby lawmakers to pass reforms.