Wellington Students Meet, Discuss Douglas Shooting

Ethan Pittman

This past week, three meetings have been held to discuss ideas for projects and events that will honor the victims of the shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The meetings took place on Wednesday through Friday, however the meeting on Wednesday was reserved for club presidents and select members of SGA. The two meetings that took place later in the week were held in the Lecture Hall and were open to all students and faculty members.

The two meeting that were open to all students and faculty were held in a public forum style where anybody could propose an idea, criticism, or suggestion. Several speakers presented their thoughts on what should be done as a result of the shooting.

While all ideas were unique or suggestions to improve pre-existing ones, there were two schools of thought that divided the members of the meetings: events should center around activism or events should center around honoring the deceased.

Those in favor of activism believed that students should stand together to call upon Florida legislators to create and enforce stricter gun control laws.

The members in favor of the events being used as memorial services believed that it is critical to respect the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by remembering their lives and reflecting on their loss.

Despite a split in thought on the purpose of future event, the majority of opinions presented were in favor of an activist approach.

One student in the meeting commented, “When Pulse happened or Las Vegas happened people said it was too soon to talk about gun control because we need to give people time to grieve. Giving people time to grieve – it’s important – but it let’s people forget about issues, and the issues are that nothing’s really changing.”

Several ideas for acts of activism were presented such as reading aloud letters to Florida legislators and wearing ribbons to signify the lives lost as a result of gun violence. One idea that seemed to have the most support was pitched Thursday, and featured a school-endorsed walkout that would occur on Monday. The walkout would be voluntary and use the Village Council to shut down the roads as students walk to the Town Hall in protest of gun violence and a lack of regulations.

There are issues that students have pointed out with the activist approach. If students use events as a way to promote gun control, it may lead to some students with different political views refusing to participate or forming counter-protests. A second issue is that there does not seem to be a clear consensus on what kind of gun control is desired or how it should be implemented.

Walkouts have been occurring in schools across Palm Beach County since mid-February.

While a large portion of students seem to be in favor of a school-endorsed walkout, SGA declared in the beginning of Friday’s meeting that, “the school itself cannot promote the walkout for security and liability reasons.”

This declaration does not put an end to the idea of a walkout though, as several students proposed the idea of having unofficial walkout that will occur without the supervision of Wellington High School. In addition to walkouts held outside of school, there is still the potential for walkouts to occur during school hours.

When Principal Cara Hayden was asked about punishments for those that participate in a walkout during school hours, she replied with, “I have no comment.”

In short, the school’s official policy is that walkouts are prohibited during the school day due to security concerns; however, the unofficial policy seems to be a bit more vague.

Despite a difference in views on the purpose of future events, there is a guarantee that some event will occur on March 14, a month after the shooting. Ideas that were presented for this date included placing the photos of the seventeen deceased school members on seventeen empty desks that will be placed in the courtyard,  students reading poetry that reflected on the lives lost, students spelling out phrases and creating shapes that can be seen from the air, and speeches being given that detail the achievements of each of the seventeen members.

The meetings reached an uncertain conclusion as to what exactly will occur on this date. It is assumed that an activity schedule will be initiated for Friday, March 2, so it is possible that more details will be discussed by school faculty members during the assembly period.

Beyond ideas for events, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has asked schools in Palm Beach County to send banners with phrases from students from different schools. The banner can currently be signed outside of the Lecture Hall during lunch. All students are highly encouraged to do so to show support to the people of Parkland.