Natrona County High School Students Protest For Safety
For 1,606 seconds -- about 27 minutes -- more than 100 students left their classes at 10 a.m. Wednesday to gather at the Natrona County High School football stadium for a combined protest, memorial service, call to action, and some inspiration.
"Ladies and gentlemen, for those who say democracy has died, that's simply not true," NCHS senior Kevin Milburn told the crowd sitting on the turf during the school administration-approved walkout.
Speeches don't mean anything unless people act on what they believe, Milburn said.
"This is not a debate over who's a Republican or who's a Democrat or supports guns or who doesn't support guns, he said. "This is a representation of democracy and how we can voice our opinions, and we don't need any political leader or any special organization to voice how we feel about our lives and our rights."
The organizers of the protest call themselves Casper Youth for Change, and they started to plan the protest three weeks after 17 people were gunned down at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14.
The 1,606 seconds mark the 1,606 mass shootings involving four people at the same place and time since the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, organizer Hunter Bullard said.
At one point, she asked the students to take a moment of silence for the victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The event was about school safety, and not about the gun control debate, Bullard added.
She also noted the event was to be peaceful and had the support of the school administration and Casper Police Department.
Bullard suggested students consider five "calls to action" to enhance safety:
- Aid those who are being bullied, and to prevent bullying if possible.
- Aid those who may be struggling with a mental health issue.
- Urge the school administration and school security to act on the first two recommendations.
- Make safety the utmost priority for the school, including locking all doors to entryways except those that go to offices, from 8:20 a.m. to 3:24 p.m.
- "That all those here today make a solemn vow to themselves to uphold these calls to action."
Bullard also urged the students to not ignore warning signs of potential trouble. Students at Parkland High School tried to warn the school's administration and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but those concerns were swept under the rug.
As the students dispersed to return to their classes, Milburn said democracy still thrives in America. Even though he's active in the local Republican Party, the protest was not partisan.
"This is not a liberal movement or a conservative movement, it's an American movement, how American citizens as young as us still educate ourselves about social issues domestically and foreignly," Milburn said. "We're just trying to prove to all those in our community that we, too, have voices in this issue, not just leaders in certain organizations, but we, the students who are affected by this, whatever decision they make, we're more affected than them."