Students walked out of class today in thousands of schools nationwide to memorialize the 17 students and teachers killed Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and to protest gun violence and the lack of gun control.
Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy was one of those schools.
At 10 a.m., most of the student body filed out into the parking lot, some wearing orange T-shirts and carrying signs with slogans like “Enough is enough!” After a moment of silence, 17 people read first-person bios of those killed in Parkland. The walkout’s organizers, 10th-grader Sophia Shapiro and 11th-grader Ruthie Cohen, also gave speeches.
“Let’s show the world that we care, and we’re not going away,” Cohen said. “We are fed up, we are fired up and we are going to fight with everything we have to get the real change in this country.”
The walkout was optional for students. Though most participated, some chose not to, said Marcia Harwitz, manager of marketing and communications at Barrack.
After Shapiro and Cohen spoke, they invited others to share their thoughts. The first person who spoke was student Noah Glickman.
“There is no chance that we see any single person on our newsfeed, in the headlines of the newspaper that says, ‘Another one died because we didn’t do anything,’” he said. “No chance. We must act now.”
English teacher Julia Lawrence spoke as well. When she heard about the Parkland shooting, she was struck by how it could have been her or her students who were killed. Any number of students killed is too many, she said.
“It should be zero,” Lawrence said. “It should be zero forever. I’ve had enough.”
Head of School Sharon Levin recalled how, years ago, a former student came to a school she was teaching at with a weapon and took the administrative wing hostage. She was one of the teachers who had to evacuate 5,000 students.
“It was something I will never forget,” Levin said. “I thought it was enough then, and as a head of school and as a principal, I am saying, we have had enough.”
Cohen said that when she first heard about the shooting, she was filled with numbness, which is what inspired her to act. She posted on Instagram that she wanted to participate in the walk-out. Shapiro saw the post and texted Cohen that she also wanted to participate.
Shapiro and Cohen both stressed that their efforts would continue. In the coming weeks, they plan to write letters to the families of those killed in Parkland. They want to encourage students to reach out to their legislators and make it a habit.
“More than anything, we want to keep the energy up,” Shapiro said. “We don’t want this to end today. We want this to continue moving forward.”
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