Ashland students ‘walk out,’ protesting gun violence in schools

ASHLAND, Ore.– Marking the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, a National School Walkout is seeing thousands of students across the country marching out of class to protest and demand gun reform.

In Ashland, the Ashland Education Association held a ‘walk in’ early in the morning to stand in solidarity with those affected by violence in schools. Teachers, students and community members from the across the district gathered at Triangle Park off of Siskiyou Boulevard, waving signs and rallying together.

While Ashland School District remained unattached from the walk in and walk out, teachers from the district stated they certainly stand with the students but felt it was best to hold a protest before classes started as to not interrupt their students’ education.

“We feel it’s important to be in the classroom, that’s our job and we want to be with the students but we still want to have our voices heard,” said Camille Ciders, a teacher at Helman Elementary School.

Teachers from the district also wanted to draw attention to other support needs in schools such as funding, smaller class sizes and more mental health programs.

“We aren’t always given the tools that we need to really support the students and so we need child development specialist, we need school nurses, we need schoolwide programs that teach children how to get along with each other,” said Ciders.

ASHLAND STUDENTS ‘WALK OUT’

The time to walk out nationally was 10 a.m. But on the Ashland High School campus, things were quiet until 11 a.m. when students suddenly merged in the parking lot of the Lincoln Elementary School.

In a few minutes the space was packed with enthusiastic chants of “Hey hey, ho ho, NRA has got to go” and “This is what democracy looks like!”

Marching down Siskiyou Boulevard, the chants continued even after the students reached their destination in the downtown plaza.

“There’s a lot of support obviously,” said Ashland High senior Ellie Carter. “The students are out here and they really want things to happen.”

As far back as Columbine, to the recent Parkland shooting, students from Ashland marched in solidarity with all of those that have lost their lives in those attacks, raising their voices in hope a catalyst for change can be realized.

“Students like us are expected to get bored after too long spent protesting one cause,” said Carter during her speech. “And it’s incredibly patronizing to hear over and over again, kids our age just don’t understand!”

During the morning walk in with the Ashland Education Association, many of the teachers expressed their support and appreciation for what the students were doing.

“I think that students are the ones who are gonna make a difference,” said Camille Ciders. “We’ve been asking for safety, maybe not as loudly as them, but we’ve been asking and suddenly with their movement – I think the nation is watching.”

While many of the students were in support of the walk out, others say the timing could have been better.

“I know that it was important but some kids have testing right now, it’s towards the end of the year and also it’s distracting for a school environment,” said Sam Arinsberg, a Ashland Middle School student.

Arinsberg says he joined the walk out to listen to what was being said. He didn’t agree with everything but wanted to hear a different opinion.

“Gun control isn’t necessarily the only option to get out of this,” he said. “I think we need to focus on giving people mental health checks before they get a gun.”

For the majority though, this was a successful day and one they hope resonates with others.

“The more voices we have, the more people we have, the more people are gonna take us seriously and at this point I think this generation just wants to be taken seriously,” said Emily Belcastro.

A senior at Ashland High, Belcastro along with her fellow senior, Aanissah Clark, helped organize the event. Both said they were amazed by the turnout but throughout the event, they continually encouraged everyone who was 18 or older to register to vote. That way, something might be done to alleviate the tragedies and fear students have been feeling.

“There’s no age limit to getting shot,” said Clark. “There’s no age limit to be a victim of gun violence or to know someone who is.”

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