By ERIC A. HOWALD
and DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
UPDATED 3/29/2018 3:09 p.m.: This story has been updated to reflect new information. Keizertimes is not divulging the scope of the change because it involves a minor.
For students at Whiteaker Middle School, the events that led to student walkouts – a shooting at Marjory Stoenman Douglas High School in Florida – at schools across the country echoed in their own lives.
“To me this was a big deal because not only did 17 people lose their lives, their families were impacted,” said Alyssa Hodges, a Whiteaker Middle School eighth grader. “I wanted to bring out that this is something that could have been prevented.”
Students at both Keizer middle schools and McNary High School participated in student-led walkouts March 14 meant to memorialize the victims of the latest mass shooting at an American high school and advocate for change to make schools safer.
Hodges joined three fellow student leaders in memorializing the victims over in the parking lot at Whiteaker. In addition to telling the participating students – maybe a third of the student body at the school – about her cousin, Hodges called on everyone at the school to do what they could to change the circumstances for students who feel lonely and alienated.
The victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14, student
Scott Beigel, 35, staff
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, student
Nicholas Dworet, 17, student
Aaron Feis, 37, staff
Jaime Guttenberg, 14, student
Chris Hixon, 49, staff
Luke Hoyer, 15, student
Cara Loughran, 14, student
Gina Montalto, 14, student
Joaquin Oliver, 17, student
Alaina Petty, 14, student
Meadow Pollack, 18, student
Helena Ramsay, 17, student
Alex Schachter, 14, student
Carmen Schentrup, 16, student
Peter Wang, 15, student
“Think about what would have happened if people had been nice to him (the shooter). It might never have happened if people had listened to him when he needed it most,” Hodges said.
Paris Boyd, another eighth grader at Whiteaker, led students out of the building and was the first to speak to the crowd over the megaphone. Boyd and the other organizers read obituaries and scoured social media to compile brief biographies for each victim of the shooting. After reading each name, the Boyd, Hodges and others described the interests and work of those who were killed.
“People who were innocent died for no particular reason and I wanted other students to acknowledge what a big deal it was and that it was horrific and terrible,” Boyd said. “I’m afraid that people are going to forget about it, and the people who were killed, in a month or two. I don’t want people to think ‘Oh, well, it’s happened again.’ It’s not some thing that should be happening.”
Asked whether they feel safe within Whiteaker itself, both responded they did, but with differing reasons.
“As a student, I feel as safe as possible because we have great security and we have a teacher who served in the military. I feel safe here because of the people we have here,” Hodges said.
“I feel like Whiteaker is a very safe school. My mom was worried because she heard some people were saying they were going to shoot kids during the walkouts. That made me worried, but I feel safe here and I want other kids to feel safe in their schools,” Boyd said.
Hodges said she wanted the students who participated in the walkout to feel empowered after it was over.
“I hope that they realize that it’s not only high schoolers. Some of us think we can’t say something because we are only in middle school, but I wanted them to realize that they can still have an opinion and a voice on these things,” Boyd said.
More than 200 students walked out at McNary High School. They stood in silence for 17 minutes in front of the school.
Faith Danner, a junior, who organized the walk out, made 17 numerical signs, one for every victim in the school shooting at Parkland. Other signs read “Fear has no place in our school” and “#Never Again.”
“There was a lot more people than I was expecting,” Danner said. “I was really impressed. I was really happy. I think a lot of it was by example. I think a lot of people became leaders today.”
Danner walked out to show her support of Parkland and because she no longer feels safe at school.
“I hope that we make an impact,” she said. “We have enough people that I know someone will see it and hopefully the legislatures will see it and want to make a difference and see that we want a difference and we have a voice.”
Students at Claggett Creek Middle School also filed out of the building at 10 a.m. and stood in silence for 17 minutes.