Bemidji High School Students Participate In National Walkout Movement
Thousands of students, teachers and staff joined a national movement today by walking out of classrooms to show solidarity with the victims and survivors of the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Today in Bemidji, students from Bemidji High School showed their support for the movement.
For those students, the day started early at 7:45 with a silent gathering at the flagpole in front of the school.
“I’ve been teaching here since 1999, so I remember the 2005 shooting up in Red Lake. Of course, we all remember [the] Columbine [school shooting], and I think the energy this time was because of the kids in Florida standing up and saying enough,” says Gina Marie Bernard, a teacher at BHS who originally planned the first walkout.
17 was the big number at BHS today. At 7:45, teachers, students and staff stood outside for 17 minutes to represent each life lost in the Parkland shooting. Then, more than 60 students walked out of the school at 10 in the morning to stand for 17 more minutes.
The movement that happened later in the morning was peaceful. Students linked arms with one another and gathered in a circle around the school’s flagpole, then silently went back inside.
Meanwhile, in the students’ homerooms, the BHS Student Council initiated a program to memorialize the victims with more than just words.
“There’s small pictures and bios to really show that they were people and that they really mattered, to make them more personable and not just a life that was lost,” says Taylor Gish, a student representative, while talking about a packet that was given to staff and students.
BHS Student Council president Sunny Werlein adds, “Instead of having two sides of the argument bash each other, we just want to have 17 acts of kindness from each individual person in the school to help bring the school together as one.”
A 22 minute video was also shown during the homeroom that touched on various issues facing teens like texting and driving, suicide, and bullying.
“A lot of the time, I feel like our students maybe aren’t heard,” says Bernard, “I saw the walkout as a vehicle for them to have their voices heard.”
“I’m hoping that today students they leave happier than they came to the school; that they feel more welcome at the school and they don’t feel negative,” says Werlein.
The BHS Student Council is in the midst of organizing a school safety forum with state lawmakers to discuss how to make classrooms safer. It’s currently scheduled for April 5th.
BHS principal Brian Stefanich says students who chose to participate in the 10 o’clock walkout will not be punished.