Editorial: Memorial walkout evidenced some maturity among local teens

The nationwide walkout on March 14 was held on the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. in which 17 people were killed.

Thousands of elementary- to college-age students participated across the nation. The focus and format of each event varied.

Some focused on gun control, some on the victims; some students were vocal; others were quiet.

We’re impressed with a few things about the way Lebanon High School participated.

It wasn’t so much a protest as it was a remembrance of the victims and a silent plea to keep something like that from ever happening again.

Three weeks before the walkout, a leadership student contacted high school administrators to develop a plan so that students who wanted to participate could do so without causing disruption or getting in trouble.

Law enforcement officers were in the area to help make sure everything went smoothly – on social media some posted that people who participated in walkouts would be sitting targets for others who wanted to do harm.

On the morning of the demonstration, LHS students were quiet and respectful throughout and returned to the school building without incident.

School administrators commended the students on their behavior as they made their way back to class.

None of us want another school shooting to occur. Anywhere.

As you’ll see in our stories on the walkout (page 11) and the school board meeting (page 14), the method of prevention is something not everyone agrees on.

Still, it was concerning that so many adults took to shaming students for participating in the walkout and the school district for allowing it.

Lebanon Local shared on our Facebook page a letter Lebanon Community School District Superintendent Rob Hess sent to parents.

The intention was to let parents know what was happening, what would be allowed and what would not be tolerated.

We got about a dozen comments from people – not surprisingly, reflecting different opinions on that post: “What a crock,” “My kids will be sitting in class like they should,” “Proud of my home town…The students should have a voice,” etc.

There also were comments that the walkout was politically driven and that it didn’t honor the fallen students.

On the morning of the walkout we posted a photo of about 200 LHS students standing in a circle on the football field.

That was where the bickering and name calling – from the adults – really began.

Some people commented that students should “let their voices be heard,” while others said the students should  be “held responsible for their actions.”

Others commented that their students would be “walking up” not walking out – a reference to a meme that has been widely shared on social media encouraging students to befriend other students who are isolated or bullied.

Some people, from both sides, decided to disparage opposing opinions.

If any of these adults had spoken to the LHS students who participated in the walkout, they would have known that “walking up” is part of what they plan to do.

At least that is what Isabella Ayala – the student who took the initiative to contact school administrators – said she plans to do.

If students are reading this, we’d like you to know that while we agree it is important to be kind to each other, the mental health of your classmates is not on your shoulders. It is not your fault when someone else commits a crime – you didn’t cause it.

The school shooter in Florida was isolated and had mental health issues, but the victims didn’t cause his actions and neither did the survivors.

That being said, we admire your approach to honoring the students who were killed and looking for a way to make LHS a more enjoyable place for your fellow students.

Back to the adults.

Did walking out of class solve anything? No. But it let us know that our kids are concerned with an issue, that for now, anyway, is our responsibility to address.