Opinion: ‘We aren’t going to let this slide’

Camden-Rockport seventh grader says why students will be walking out

Posted:  Tuesday, March 6, 2018 - 9:30pm

The seventh graders of Camden Rockport Middle School spent February studying the Civil Rights movement. Peaceful protests, large-scale peaceful marches, sit-ins and walkouts made a really big difference in our country, maybe as much or more as a court case or political argument. Just think about how in 1958, there was controversy over black and white kids going to the same school.

In 2008, only 60 years later, we elected an African American president. Those protests, as simple as just sitting at a lunch counter or walking through town, changed our entire society for the better. 

It is time for our society to change again.

On February 14, there was a deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The 19-year-old shooter legally bought an assault weapon and used it to kill 17 students, teachers, and coaches.

I can’t imagine how hard it is to witness that, and to recover. But many students from that school are stepping up to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. They are peacefully and persistently demanding action to keep kids safe from gun violence. They’re marching in the streets, posting on social media, and meeting with politicians. And they’re organizing school walkouts all over the US, and a few internationally.

The largest walkout is happening on March 14, one month after the Parkland tragedy, and will last for 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost. 

Many of the walkouts are happening at high schools, but school shootings aren’t limited to high schools. The middle schoolers of Camden Rockport have opinions and we have a voice.

We aren’t “too young.”

This isn’t something we’ll “understand when we’re older.”

This is our reality, even though it shouldn’t be. We aren’t going to let this slide. It’s time to stand up for ourselves and our rights to not be afraid of school shootings. It’s time to stop these tragedies from happening.  

On March 14, participating Camden-Rockport Middle School seventh and eight graders will walk out of school. During the 17 minutes of walkout, we will sign a banner of support for the Parkland community, and a letter to Senator Susan Collins demanding better gun safety laws. 

Not everyone at CRMS will walk out. Students who don’t agree with this movement’s beliefs, or simply do not feel comfortable walking out of school, won’t be pressured to participate. Part of having a safe school is having space and respect for all opinions. 

We are not protesting the teachers. We love you guys. In fact, the teachers of CRMS are probably a big factor in this event happening at all.

From the Camden Conference for Change to the Civil Rights work and presentation, we have been encouraged to fight for what’s right, and not let injustice slide. 

No one who is walking out is doing so to get out of school, or to snub their teachers. We are causing a “disturbance in the academic day” because this is an issue we think warrants a disturbance. 

When meeting with the principal about this issue, one of her concerns was that we would not be safe during a walkout. Anyone could find out that 30 or so students would be outside unauthorized, and they could hurt us.

This is just more reason to walk out.

If teacher feel unsafe about their students leaving the building at an unusual time, we need a change. 

We’ve been learning about how a peaceful march can change everything, and now is the time to put that into practice.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

It won’t bend that way, unless we make it bend. We can make a difference.

Tessa Meil is in seventh grade at Camden-Rockport Middle School