WO Stands with Parkland

Jordan Broking, Managing Editor

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Secondary schools across the West Orange School District held walkouts on Friday, Mar. 14, in memoriam to the 17 people killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Students from West Orange High School (WOHS), and the middle schools left class in order to hold a 17 minute walkout, each minute representing a victim of the school shooting that happened on Feb. 14. At WOHS, students left their 2nd block classes at 9:50 to attend the walkout at the Suriano Football Field, where over 1,000 students gathered.

Members of the student body and faculty read biographies of each victim, with students reading biographies about students, and faculty members reading biographies about faculty members that lost their lives. After a biography was read, a student holding a candle stood up. Once all the biographies were read, senior Kefiloe Mutome sang to the crowd.

Mr. Moore later addressed the crowd saying, “I am lucky to be the principal of bright and compassionate students.”

The concept behind the walkout came from a student organized committee led by Senior, Sophia Torres. Torres later presented the idea to a group of fellow peers who agreed. Torres’ inspiration stemmed from an anti gun violence rally held in Livingston, Nj. At the rally, Parkland students and Moms for Action, a national gun reform organization, was present. However, Torres did not want the walkout to be one for gun reform like the one happening on Apr. 20, she wanted it to be a memorial for the victims.

Torres and her group originally planned for the walkout to be held on the driveway behind the soccer field due to snow restrictions, however, the town plowed the football field and the new location was ideal.

“Once that was available to us, it made all the difference because you saw that whole field was full of students,” Alexandra Fiore, a member of the student organization, commented.

Torres expected 300 to show up, and was surprised that almost 1800 showed up for the cause..

Similar walkouts were held across the middle schools. At Liberty Middle School, 91% of the students participated in the event, Principal Mr. Klemt stated, “I thought the walkout was powerful for those who participated in our outside event. My takeaway was in seeing how this student-led peaceful protest began and developed in today’s message,” a message to, “honor those lost lives, and act so responsibly for the 17 minute tribute.”

95% of Edison Middle School students participated in Edison’s peaceful march. Students were asked to share their thoughts prior to the march with each other, their advisory teachers, and guidance counselors.

Edison Principal, Xavier Fitzgerald stated, “I needed to know that my students understood what they were marching for, and the significance of marching.” Fitzgerald hopes his students learn from the march, “we love each other, we support each other, we look out for each other, and we are kind to each other.”

Students were informed and prepared ahead of the march at Roosevelt Middle School where 93% of students participated.

Roosevelt’s Principal, Lionel Hush commented, “I hope the students were able to take away from this experience a greater sense of community, recognizing that they must be the change in the world.”

Across social media, community members, teachers, and parents were giving their praises towards the walkouts, especially towards the one held at WOHS.

WOHS Chemistry teacher, Dr. Brandt, responded to the walkout, “Students started the anti-Vietnam War movement. Hopefully the same energy can be created again.” Brandt was one of the many students involved in the anti-war movement, considering the Vietnam War to be a corrupt war.

Torres agreed with Brandt’s comparison to the Vietnam War, “It’s just a different time period, and not even a different situation because these are weapons of war,” referring to the loss of life, “they do not belong on our streets.”

The biggest takeaway that Torres, Fiore, and other members of the student organization would like the student body to understand is that they have a voice and they should use it. They consider this walkout to be a gateway for change in society,

“Kids are starting to realize that that time is going to be now, and if we don’t step forward and take that action it’s going to escape with every minute that we don’t start to stand up,” Torres explained.

The student run organization offered recommendations for those who did not want to be there and directly show their support, such as writing a piece that they would like someone else to say, or making a suggestion.

“There’s a lot of parts in organizing something like this. Every part counts,” Fiore stated.

The student organization hopes that the walkout on Apr. 20 will be a success just like this one. Torres noted the school will be, “A big community fighting for the same thing.”