Anchorage high schools join National School Walkout
Several Anchorage high schools conducted walkouts Friday to mark the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, part of a campaign against gun violence revitalized by survivors of this year’s Parkland, Fla. high-school shooting.
Students at Service, South, East, West and Bartlett high schools had planned events Friday as part of the National School Walkout. Some of them planned to include voter-registration drives for students turning 18.
At East High School, hundreds of students stood outside the building’s entrance for about 15 minutes, chanting slogans and holding a banner that read “Never Again,” “We call BS” and “Gun Reform Now.”
At South High, dozens of students participated with some holding a “#NeverAgain” banner.
Service High School opted for a panel on student safety instead of a walkout.
About 100 students went to the discussion in the gym during their lunch break. The panelists included one of their classmates, the Anchorage School District’s safety director and chief academic officer, and the Anchorage Police Department's deputy chief.
“Schools are here to support the students, academically, emotionally and safety is one of our top concerns,” said Service principal Frank Hauser. “I think the students have a very important role to play and an event like this, bringing everyone together and having that dialogue, is important for them to share their concerns.”
Student body president Dieuleveut Biringanine said she believes protesting gun control can alienate people who have different opinions. Instead, she wanted to start an overall conversation about how the community can work together to keep violence out of school.
“Once we bring in Republican, Democrat, left, right, we completely veer off and people start to get angry,” she explained. “This was all about school safety, how can we keep children safe, mental health and things that didn’t involve partisan views.”
Panelists answered questions about arming teachers, the district’s active shooter training and response plan and how schools can prevent dangerous people from getting into the building in the first place.
“We’re in a good place here in Anchorage,” APD Deputy Chief Kenneth McCoy told the students. “Our police department is committed to keeping schools safe, the school district is committed to keeping schools safe and we’re working together to improve upon the systems we already have.”
Biringanine was recently certified to register people to vote. She’s working to get her peers registered so they can have their voice heard in the next election.
“It’s going to be a crucial time in history. We’re going to see a wave of change in the younger generation voting,” Brininganine said.
Anchorage students have walked out earlier this year to protest gun violence in schools, after the Florida shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead. A similar event at Palmer High School instead focused on increasing kindness between students.
Heather Hintze contributed information to this story.
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