Editor’s Note: BHS students Lily Nemirovsky, Hannah O’Connor and Helen Pulizzi came together in the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting to organize a local response to the call for a National School Walkout on March 14th by Women’s March Youth Empower. (March 14 was the one month anniversary of the most recent mass shooting and the walkout was described by the national organizers as both a protest to push lawmakers to pass gun reform and a commemoration of the deaths of 17 people at the Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.) The blizzard which closed Bedford schools for two days resulted in the cancellation of the March 14 demonstration. The student organizers called for a modified walkout on Thursday, March 15, at 10:00 am. The press release below from the organizers describes what happened at BHS on Thursday, March 15. In speaking with the three BHS organizers the commemoration was acknowledged as part of the walkout as well as a broader call for “change” which includes a wide range of options which The Bedford Citizen will attempt to explore with students in upcoming stories. In an email to parents obtained by The Bedford Citizen, BHS Principal Heather Galante advised parents that “there are no plans to reschedule what was a nationally organized and endorsed event. It seems inauthentic” on Wednesday evening. She assured parents that “the high school administration will continue to engage in conversations with students.”
Submitted by Lily Nemirovsky, Hannah O’Connor, and Helen Pulizzi
As soon as the national school walkout became official, we knew we needed to do something because of how we felt after the Parkland shooting. The three of us found out that we were all passionate about organizing a walkout at BHS and began meeting together. We quickly found out that many other students felt just as called to take action as we did. From then on, we gained a lot of support from our peers. In the weeks leading up to the day of, we met to plan actions that would go beyond just a moment of silence.
As young citizens, we often feel that there is little we can do to make change actually happen. This led to our decision to provide postcards that students could use to write to any government official, and also to provide forms that allowed anyone who is sixteen years or older to preregister to vote. So far, this has been an overwhelming success and we will be continuing to provide both options during lunches in the coming days.
We want to express that this event was more than just a symbolic one. Our main objectives were not only to remember the individuals who we lost in the atrocity at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School but also all of those who have been taken from us at the hands of gun violence. However, in this event lay a deeper purpose. All students who participated are unanimous in our belief that change must happen, and it must happen now. Together, we decided to break from the moments of silence in our school that had never been a solution to a problem that, out of all things, needs passionate voices.
The walkout began with students gathering in the lobby as we addressed them from the balcony. After we explained why organizing this was personally important for us, we read the seventeen names of the victims and asked for a seventeen-second break for silence. The silence was deafening and it was overwhelming to see that as we were speaking more and more students flooded into the lobby, holding posters and ready to use their voices to make a change.
After giving students a brief minute to begin postcards and registration, many of us poured out onto the sidewalk in front of the high school, despite multiple warnings of punishment for leaving the building. As we have seen from previous historical acts of civil disobedience, the value of standing up and speaking out for what you believe in surpasses the threat of consequences.
Throughout this event, students used their voices peacefully and never as a weapon. We are proud of all students who participated in such a respectful manner for something that was student-run, and always meant to be.
We remain heartbroken for the families and community of Parkland, Florida and all of those who we have lost in the past due to gun violence, and we remain committed to making sure that something is done to make for a safer tomorrow. We have had enough.