ESHS hosts virtual walkout assembly on school shootings
Instead of marching in the National School Walkout to protest gun violence on March 14, some Eureka Springs High School students met for a virtual walkout assembly.
Principal David Gilmore and other staff members encouraged the students to write letters to their representatives addressing ways to prevent more mass shootings after a school shooting in Florida left 17 people dead last month. Gilmore said he wanted to give the students a chance to voice their concerns at the assembly.
“We have 200 future voters here, and I want the kids to always be part of the democratic process,” Gilmore said. “School is supposed to be a safe place, so instead of walking out on that, we created an alternate way for their voices to be heard. If they’re writing their thoughts to legislators, that should be heard in a really powerful way.”
It’s important to listen to what young people have to say, Gilmore said.
“Politicians need to consider new ideas from a new generation,” he said. “If they’ve got better ideas, what works best is what our country needs.”
Seniors Rachel Adams and Sophie Thomas said they would have walked out of the school if not for the assembly.
“This meeting was a way of teaming up with us rather than forcing us to rebel against them,” Adams said.
“My initial thought was this was just containing a protest,” Thomas said, “but after attending, I see they’re with us. They want to protect us while giving us the opportunity to create real change instead of just getting out of school for 17 minutes.”
Junior Isaiah McCurry agreed.
“They gave us some insight to some really important statistics and clarified some information that really needed to be clarified,” McCurry said.
For Adams, gun control is an important issue. She said she plans to write her representatives asking for better regulations when it comes to purchasing a gun.
“I really do think we need to be more careful about who we allow to have firearms,” Adams said. “I don’t think anyone is rooting for a gun ban. It’s about gun control.”
Thomas agreed, saying she’s already written an argument in favor of gun control.
“My main point is it’s about controlling it, not banning it,” Thomas said. “It’s not about taking guns from citizens.”
Sophomore Alicia Brigance addressed the idea of arming teachers and said she doesn’t support that.
“I don’t feel comfortable with any teacher having a firearm,” Brigance said. “I don’t feel that’s really safe or comfortable.”
Another issue, senior Ashlynn Lockhart said, is how shootings continue to happen with no effort to stop them.
“It’s a problem of people just sweeping it under the rug,” Lockhart said. “We’ve had a lot of school shootings this year alone. It’s ridiculous we’re not addressing the problem. Something really needs to be done.”
There’s always a chance tragedy could strike, Gilmore said, but the administration is doing its best to ensure the school is safe.
“All educators have that in the back of their mind that it could happen anywhere,” Gilmore said. “I feel very safe here. I feel our school does a really good job of being proactive about school safety.”
He described some of the safety measures, saying the school is a closed campus, classroom doors are closed and locked at all times, there’s one main entrance to the school and Eureka Springs police officers stop by every now and then to check in.
“I feel like we’re doing a good job, but we’re always looking to do better,” Gilmore said.
Though she feels safe at school, Adams said she’s still worried about the possibility of a shooting. Thomas agreed, remembering the school shooting near Jonesboro in 1998.
“It’s unwise to entertain the thought that because we’re unique and small, it couldn’t happen here,” Thomas said. “We spend such a large portion of our time in this place.”
The school has had lockdowns recently, Thomas said, so everyone knows what to do in case a shooting happens.
“Why do we have a lockdown? It’s because there’s a risk,” Thomas said. “To find that risk in a place where I spent so much of my time … I feel uneasy when I think about it.”
Brigance said she worries about her little sister, who is in middle school.
“It scares me considering my sister is so small. She doesn’t understand,” Brigance said.
Lockhart said she doesn’t think about it on an everyday basis but would like to take all safety precautions just in case.
“I don’t want to assume just because I live in a small town that nothing could happen to me,” Lockhart said. “I don’t want to feel like we’re invincible, because that’s not a safe mentality to have. I’d rather take the precautions to have a safer environment at school.”
While he doesn’t want to lump everyone in his generation together, McCurry believes he and his peers will be those who create positive change in America.
“Don’t underestimate us,” McCurry said. “They need to start listening, because we’re just going to keep talking.”
“We’re the generation that wants to change the world,” Brigance said. “I will stand up for what I believe in.”
Thomas agreed, saying many people are approaching gun violence with a level head.
“I know there are a lot of people like that in my generation, and it will be those people who make a change,” Thomas said. “You need that emotional charge, but you need to be rational, too.”
“There’s a negative stereotype that we get mad a lot and are super sensitive to things,” Adams said. “Well, there are things to get mad about. There are things to be sensitive about. Being active and aware of issues and actively trying to make them better is not a bad thing.”