After Parkland, Ohio Students Talk Guns, School Safety

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In the days after 17 students and teachers were killed in a Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, 15-year-old freshman Katelyn Davis said the hallways at her school were a lot quieter than usual.

“That week, it was dead silent,” Davis said of Anthony Wayne High School in Whitehouse, Ohio.

She said, initially, students were shocked, but soon after, they wanted to voice their opinions about the issues that are permeating high school conversations across the country, conversations about school safety and gun control.

At Anthony Wayne, Davis said a student demonstration never got off the ground, but on February 21, a week after the shooting, teenagers at more than a dozen Ohio high schools held walkouts, including at Westlake High School where 16-year-old sophomore Molly Finucane led the charge.

“I heard that Parkland students were organizing a nationwide walkout,” she said. “It was really important for me to make a big statement that enough is enough for us and this needs to be the last time.”

The last school shooting, Finucane said.

Her rally honored the Parkland victims, but was also a protest, calling on members of Congress to enact stricter gun laws.

Rebecca Parch helped organize a similar rally that day at Lakewood High School, although she said word spread so quickly through social media, she didn’t have much organizing to do. At Lakewood, students also held signs and joined in chants about ending gun violence.

The 17-year-old junior would like to see a more effective background check put in place, a restriction on the sale of bump stocks, an accessory that allows a semi-automatic weapon to shoot almost as rapidly as an automatic weapon, and regular mental health evaluations of gun owners.

She also thinks her school could be doing more to keep students safe, like installing metal detectors, although she said they have conducted lock down drills.

Parch has worked with administrators to plan a vigil to be held in the school’s football stadium March 14 on the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting.

Fifteen-year-old Sam Scherf said he’s never felt unsafe at Maumee High School, where he’s a sophomore, but he agrees with the stance of many conservatives across the country that allowing teachers to carry firearms would make schools safer.

“This really depends on what teacher you’re giving a gun. It really depends on if that teacher is going to be properly trained,” he said.

If a teacher is armed, Scherf doesn’t think students should be notified.

“The biggest issue you hear about teachers having a gun is students trying to find the gun or get ahold of the gun, and I think not telling students who has it would start to solve some of those issues,” he said.

Norah Wilson, a 17-year-old senior at Westlake High, disagreed with Scherf. She believes arming teachers won’t lead to safer schools.

“Arming teachers doesn’t change the fact that there are still guns readily available across the nation,” she said.

She’d like to see Congress raise the minimum age to purchase a gun, similar to what Florida lawmakers have done.

Fifteen-year-old David Spencer said the fear of guns he sees in some of his fellow students comes from a lack of experience.

Spencer and his father are avid sportsmen. He said he’s grown up in a home where safety around guns in the number one priority.

That’s why he said he doesn’t think there needs to be more restrictions on who can buy guys, but more education on how to be safe around them.

“Personally, I believe the gun doesn’t kill. The human loads the bullet into the gun and the human pulls the trigger to kill,” he said.

Spencer attends East Liverpool High School where he said many of his friends share his view on guns. He said he’s never felt unsafe.

In Westlake, Wilson admitted she hasn’t had much experience with guns, but the Parkland shooting brought the issues of gun restrictions and school safety to the forefront of her mind.

“When things like this happen, it’s hard to go to school and feel completely sure that everything will be okay. You think it will never happen to you, but it happened to them in Parkland and they’re kids just like us, kids in high school,” Wilson said.

Her school holds lockdown drills, she said, to practice what to do should an intruder enter the building.

Her schoolmate Finucane said she can’t remember a time when she didn’t participate in those drills at school.

“We’re the generation of kids born after Columbine and ever since we’ve gone to school we’ve had (these) drills, but I think we still know that it’s not normal, that it didn’t used to be like this,” she said.

“It’s a bit of hope to know that maybe one day in the future we can look back on this to say we say the problem and took it upon ourselves to fix it,” Finucane added.

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