by Kaya Garza
Students at Rockwell Charter High School participated in a nationwide protest against gun violence Wednesday by walking out of their classrooms at exactly 10:00 am. More than 65 Rockwell students participated in the peaceful protest that lasted 17 minutes.
“When the walkout happened, quite a few students went to the back parking lot,” said Rockwell sophomore, Katie Hull. “During the 17 minutes, we paid respect to the victims. A couple students read the names of every victim in the Parkland shooting. It was really powerful.”
The walkout lasted for 17 minutes to honor those 17 students who lost their lives in the February 14th shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Rockwell students exercised their First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and the right to form assembly as they chanted things like “enough is enough” and “17 minutes for 17 lives” while marching from the back of the school to the front. Some students also marched with signs that said things like “enough” and “17 minutes.”
But not all students felt walking out was the correct approach. Some felt the alternative “Walk Up, Not Out” movement would be more effective.
“I felt like the walkout wasn’t the right way to go about it,” said Rockwell student Mikayla Tanner. “Walk Up is approaching new people and showing them they have someone there. When you’re talking to new people they feel valued. None of those shooters felt cared about. It wouldn’t just help end gun violence, but suicide and self harm as well. But I wasn’t against it, I still support everyone who decided to walk out. Just for me personally, it wasn’t the best approach.”
Approximately 30 minutes later, after students had already gone back to their classes, Rockwell counselor Misty Madsen received a call from police about a man who showed up to the Maverik near Rockwell with a rifle strapped to his chest.
“I was just chilling and teaching when there was an announcement about a lockdown,” said Rockwell teacher Jacob Hampton. “I was already having a discussion about the walkout with my students when the announcement happened, and I also got a text that went out to all the staff. I instructed my students to go to a corner as I turned off the lights and removed the door magnet.”
The lockdown was called off about 20 minutes later when the man left Maverik property.
“The man mentioned that he heard Rockwell was participating in the walkout and he wanted to spread some kind of message about his rights as an American,” said a Maverick employee. “He wasn’t doing anything illegal, as Utah is an open-carry state.”
This man intended to “educate” Rockwell students who participated in the walkout about the Second Amendment, but police confirmed there was no immediate threat to the safety of students and staff at Rockwell.
“Sadly, too many people misunderstood the aims of the walkout – students and adults, alike,” said Rockwell’s Principal Darren Beck. “That was a horrible way to teach people, by scaring them.”
This lockdown taught Rockwell some important lessons about how to stay calm should a similar situation ever arise again.
“I think that we, as teachers, staff, and students, learned that we need to be more prepared if something like this were to happen again,” said Rockwell student Megan Nelson. “We should have more drills. These kinds of things could last for hours and people were freaking out after a few minutes. It really put things into perspective.”