Stand up, but don’t walk out

Why a walkout won’t actually promote safety against gun violence

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Fear.

That’s what filled just over one thousand students’ hearts as the news circulated throughout Instagram on Sun. April 7 that an anonymous active shooter threat was posted online in the comments section of an ASB social media account. Instagram story after Instagram story, students warned their peers to stay safe and skip school the next day.

Emails quickly flooded the inbox of Principal Roman Del Rosario, Ed.D., as concerned community members vocalized their discontent with how administrators responded to the threat.

And I was one of them.

Following the robotic-like message, I began to feel incredibly anxious as the thought circulated my mind: “Is my life worth less than 51 dollars?” — that’s the amount Bonita Vista High School (BVH) loses when a student is absent according to a December interview with Del Rosario.

It wasn’t long before I came to realize that many felt the same way.

It was announced that school the following day would resume “as normal,” as if the fear of never returning home from a place of education is “normal.”

The Instagram stories began to slow down until a second threat was posted around 9:30 pm Sunday night, igniting the fire that was beginning to peter out, and yet, school was still expected to resume.

The Sweetwater Union High School Districts’ (SUHSD) response was appalling. The decision for school to resume “as normal” after two gun threats raises the question of how much of a priority students’ lives are to SUHSD and the BVH administration.

Moreover, the lack of transparency from SUHSD and BVH administrators ignited unease; even still, dozens of questions remain unanswered.

Students were understandably outraged, feeling that their safety was not truly “a top priority” as a SUHSD press release claimed. As a result, a group of students took it upon themselves to organize a school wide walk-out on Thursday, April 11, and the following Thursday, April 18, in protest against administrators’ alarming response to the threat. However, considering that the student who made the first, initial threat is still unidentified, a large group of students in one area could make for an extreme safety concern.

The truth is that no matter how much SUHSD and Chula Vista Police Department (CVPD) enhance law enforcement on campus or investigate potential suspects, school shootings are nearly impossible to predict, or prevent.

“I don’t think that we can probably ever be sure than we can prevent it; [it] may be next to impossible,” Dr. Alvin Poussaint, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School said in a CBS News article.

It is with a heavy heart that many students come to terms with the fact that the chance of a school shooting to occur is not unlikely—not anymore. In fact people ranging from ages 12-17 are at the highest risk of being directly affected by gun violence as it was made clear that the young adult demographic is the target of massacres, according to Harvard Injury Control study group from the Harvard School of Public Health.

With that being said, during a time where tensions are high as BVH students anticipate their fate, another student could see this as a window of opportunity; it is up to students to be safe and responsible as well as BVH Administration as we try to navigate through this time of trouble- together.  

While a protest is a powerful way to send a message, to show frustration and discontent, it is also a way to contradict intended messages about promoting students’ safety.

We, as a united community, need to ensure that we can be allies in the movement against gun violence all the while securing our safety first, which can only begin with clear communication between the students and staff.

I never want to have to send an email to my school officials, asking if mine and my peers lives mean anything.

I never want to have to wonder if the “heightened security” will be enough to save me from the violence that comes with such a school shooting. After all, students must preserve their voices for a time when they can stand up for themselves and be heard safely. When that time comes, we must shout to demand answers and for justice.

As Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School junior Alfonso Calderon put it in a Quartz podcast: “Everybody needs to remember — we are just children. A lot of people think that disqualifies us from even having an opinion on this sort of matter. This matters to me more than anything else in my entire life.”