Across the nation walkouts were staged March 14 by many students in support of change in gun laws.
The protest, organized by Downers Grove South students, aimed to build on the wave of legislative change urged by those impacted by the Florida school shooting.
On Valentine’s Day, 17 people were killed in a tragedy that shook not only Parkland, Fla., but also many others across the nation.
Shortly after a group of Downers Grove South students took steps to start organizing a political protest.
“Our decision to do this was kind of spontaneous,” Junior Kelly Jankowski said. “I retweeted something about DGS participating in the walkout, and Trevor [Owcarz] reached out to me supporting the idea. After that, we decided to make a Twitter and it went from there. So many people reached out wanting to help.”
The protest moved 1,100 students across Community High School District 99 to participate in the walkout.
“This walkout will allow our voices to be heard,” Junior MarcAnthony Smith said.
A number of community members took to the streets surrounding Downers Grove South High School in support the protest by holding up signs calling for change in gun laws.
Ahead of March 14, students went to the administration to make their plans to organize a walkout known.
“Our group has put lots of time and effort into making this walkout something a broad majority of students at DGS can get behind,” Senior Jackson Kamedulski said. “We have met with administrators and listened to opposition in order to create a smart and sensible platform for our school.
The school district prides itself on maintaining a safe environment for students.
“If a student feels compelled to protest about any topic that is important to them, we encourage students to select an event and time that does not interrupt their learning or potentially cause a disruption at school,” Superintendent Hank Thiele said in a statement.
Actions taken to carryout the walkout did not come without consequences. The protest led 1,100 students to receive detention.
“We feel that the administration does a good job to promote a positive learning environment here at Downers South, and as they stated to us in an email, in order for us to understand the implications of our actions, there may have to be consequences in the form of detentions,” Junior Trevor Owcarz said. “We are prepared to face those consequences because we know change never comes without consequences, and it has only strengthened our resolves to march, as we feel our voice is more important than the consequences of our actions. The administration wants us to be able to promote a safe walkout, while helping us understand the implications, and their collaboration and understanding is one of the reasons why we feel this walkout will be a success.”
Jankowski said the movement following the Florida school shooting is different, compared to similar type tragedies in years past.
“There have been so many unnecessary massacres within the past couple years, but this one finally pushed people over the edge,” she said. “We’ve seen shootings at concerts, movie theaters, bars, and in the most vulnerable spot, schools. I think the immediate reactions to this shooting was the difference. The students, with supporting teachers and parents, had had enough. No more innocent lives being senselessly killed. No more thoughts and prayers, no more. We need action and the Parkland students understood this, they got the whole nation involved and without them, none of these new laws or walkouts would be in place.”
Kamedulski shared that sentiment.
“We hope to contribute our share of support for change and make a statement along with so many other schools doing the same,” he said. “We demand change in our gun laws and this is the first step to enacting that change.”