Russell County High School students took a different approach to National Walkout Day by planning a sit-in memorial. The Interact Club researched all of the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, as well as the victim from the recent shooting at Huffman High School in Birmingham, AL.
The students presented each victim at the toll of a bell.
For 17 minutes, the students and teachers who were killed in the mass shooting, exactly a month ago, were brought to life in the RCHS gymnasium as students shared the victims’ stories with their peers.
The Interact Club says they wanted to show how relatable the victims were, and with every bell toll, draw attention to the fact gun violence in schools can happen anywhere.
“I feel like it made an impact. I know for me, even carrying the signs, like I heard about it, but every time I heard the bell go off, it hit me,” says Whitney Harris. Harris participated in the memorial and helped plan the sit-in.
Two more Interact Club members shared what they hoped their peers would take away from sit-in.
“I hope that they understand that you never know when your time is up and that each and every day you just have to put forth your best effort and just continue to try to be better than you were yesterday,” says Iyhania Thomas.
“I would definitely say for them to be more aware, more safe around guns, because a lot of people around here grew up around guns and think ‘gun’ is just another object, so that they’re more safe, and they realize it can be an object of destruction,” Jonathan Costlow says.
The students acknowledged gun reform is a need, but say they chose to focus their efforts today on the Florida victims.
The Interact Club has discussed ways to make their school safer.
“I feel it starts with mental health, so I feel that every high school should be required to have a licensed psychologist on staff, and that’s a long way in the future but I think that’s a good step to take,” says Costlow.
Costlow also adds he would like to see an increase in the number of SROs within the school. Thomas shares those same sentiments as well.
“I don’t think it would happen here, but you never know, because they probably thought it wouldn’t happen to their school either, but I just think that everyone should take precautions, like closing the doors, just stuff like that, just simple things that can keep us safe,” says Thomas.
The student group says they were pleased with the turnout, and share words of empathy to the MSDHS students.
Harris says, “Stand together. Don’t take it for granted. Sometimes we take for granted the people that’s beside us. We may get annoyed with them, but we have to realize that is our family. We have to love them. And they’re going to be there with us, in our hearts for the rest of our lives. Even after we graduate and we may lose touch, we’re still going to remember them.”
Russell County High School says students were not forced to participate and says students were not reprimanded if they chose not to. However, Jasponica Florence with Russell County Schools says she believes most of the students attended, even though they were given an option.