By Elissa Koh, Steph Chang & Brooke Lee,
Davis High students participated in the national school walkout to protest gun violence on April 20, which marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Organized by the DHS Feminism Club and regulated by the school’s administration, the day was full of different student action activities that took place from third period to fifth period.
The first activity students partook started at around 10 a.m. during third period in the North Gym, where students were encouraged to make posters against gun violence, register to vote and write letters to Congress.
During fourth period, students took their posters and marched around the school track several times, chanting. They then proceeded to sit down in the bleachers to listen to students speaker and seniors Kayla Nunes and Su Tuli, members of the Feminism Club.
Sophomore Henna Sandhu was one of the many students who created their own posters– her own reading, “No more silence, stop gun violence”– and participated in the march.
“I just don’t support guns and I don’t support the violence. It means a lot to stand up for nonviolence for me,” Sandhu said.
Sandhu compared the march and the student action activities to the last walkout that occurred on March 14 after the Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, Florida. There, she had felt like she had just been standing and listening, but for this walkout, she felt more active and connected.
“This one’s definitely bigger than the last walkout. I feel like I’m more involved with this one,” Sandhu said.
The last activity took place in the North Gym, where several guest speakers were invited to talk to the students, including Rachel Beck of IndivisibleYOLO and Audrey Pan of Sister District. The floor was then opened up for any student who wanted to speak.
Nunes, the president of Feminism Club, was one of the primary organizers of the student action. She had met up with principal Tom McHale almost every day of the week to talk about the activities that were to be coordinated and all the logistics. The day before the walkout, students were handed a flyer informing them on the First Amendment and their rights.
“Kayla came to me last week with a vision for […] what students can do on 4/20 to remember the tragedy at Columbine and during the course of several days we talked about ways that we could engage students and really it was her vision and efforts to organize students,” McHale said. “Fundamentally, our first priority is the safety of our students and so whatever events that we have on our campus we want to make sure that our students are safe and that the events go smoothly.”
“[The activities] turned out super well,” Nunes said. “It was just kind of a place for students to look around and see that a lot of people are with them and that view.”
Nunes played an important role in working with the school to ensure that all students who participated in the activities would be excused and on campus, something that had not happened with the last walkout on March 14 as many students had been marked unexcused.
She had originally planned on having a walkout that would go outside of campus, however, “the students and community of [Columbine High] sent out a memo saying that they didn’t want for students to walk out, [but] instead wanted people to work with their schools in some sort of service day or some activities to remember their victims and just come together with their communities against gun violence,” Nunes said.
She then worked with McHale to make all students who participated in activities excuse and for those activities to be on campus. In the end, a process was created to excuse participants, requiring all students to first report to their teachers for the period and sign out, then sign in when they arrived at the location of the activity, where administrators and faculty were present to help regulate.
“I feel like it’s good that [the school] excused us because it kind of says that they support us,” Sandhu said. “It just says that we have a nonviolent community, and the community wants to support us.”
McHale commends Feminism Club, especially Nunes, for organizing and running all the student action activities.
“I’m very impressed by the efforts of Feminism Club, from the very beginning to the end of the activities today, including the leadership of Kayla Nunes, who really stepped forward and was very responsible and passionate about making this day a success,” McHale said.
From all the activities, Nunes’ biggest hope is that students will vote.
“I just want them to realize that we as a school are a community who do not approve of, do not allow or encourage the gun threats that have been happening in our community. We’re a community that says ‘That’s not okay. It’s not allowed. We don’t want this here,’ ” Nunes said.
Although there were many students that participated in the student action activities on campus, during the third period activity in the North Gym, at around 10:30 a.m. a group of students from inside the gym decided to rally together and have their own walkout to Congressman John Garamendi’s office in downtown Davis.
Senior Justin Dillard-Telm was one of the organizers of the separate walkout, which had been planned the night before as Dillard-Telm and his friends decided to try to motivate students to march to Garamendi’s office in order for them to make their voices heard.
“The school’s planned activities did not allow those outside of the school to hear the voices of the students. The school-sponsored demonstration was very constrained and did not allow any attempts at expression to leave the boundaries of campus. These boundaries actually detract from the students’ ability to contribute to the gun control movement,” Dillard-Telm said.
Sophomore Amber Crenna-Armstrong was one of approximately 50 students who decided to participate in the march to Garamendi’s office.
“I think, especially because the walkout was kind of school-sanctioned, that we need to take democracy into our own hands because we are the future and we need to be able to take action ourselves,” Crenna Armstrong said.
The main purpose of the walkout was to “serve as a very powerful reminder,” according to Dillard-Telm– a reminder for Garamendi to support gun control legislation as they demonstrated to him that his constitutents care about the issue, a reminder to the community to support the issue by voting or taking action and a reminder to DHS administration that their students are determined to express themselves.
“I saw an opportunity to support a cause in which I believe,” Dillard-Telm said.
Dillard-Telm believes that the walkout was a success as “participants were able to communicate to DHS administration, the city of Davis and their local representative their stances on the issue of gun control, and their willingness to take action and create change.”