Sequoyah students take part in national student walkout

BY KENLEA HENSON
Former Reporter
03/15/2018 10:00 AM
Video Frame selected by Cherokee Phoenix
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Tahlequah-Sequoyah High School senior Celia Bateman speaks to a group of peers about gun violence in schools, while senior Raelee Fourkiller holds a sign saying, “Does Our Safety Not Matter?” during a March 14 student walkout to protest gun violence in schools and honoring the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. The two girls organized the student walk out at SHS in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as part of a nationwide movement led by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER. More than 3,000 schools across the country and around the world participated in the protest. LINDSEY BARK/ CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A Tahlequah-Sequoyah student holds a sign with names of victims from the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, during a March 14 student walkout to protest gun violence in schools and honoring the lives lost during the Stoneman Douglas massacre. The student walkout took place at SHS in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as part of a nationwide movement led by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER. KENLEA HENSON/ CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Tahlequah-Sequoyah High School student looks at a collage of photos of victims from the Feb.14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, during a student walkout to protest gun violence in schools and honoring the lives lost during the Stoneman Douglas massacre. The student walkout took place on March 14 at SHS in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, as part of a nationwide movement led by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER. LINDSEY BARK/ CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – Students at Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah walked out of their classes on March 14 as part of a nationwide movement to draw attention to gun violence in schools and to honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

The coordinated walkout was organized by the youth wing of the Women’s March called EMPOWER, which encouraged students across the country to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to commemorate a minute for each of the 17 victims gunned down at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14.

Organizers said nearly 3,000 walkouts were set to take place throughout the U.S. and around the world, resulting in the largest demonstration of student activism that has yet to emerge since the massacre.

Sequoyah seniors Celia Bateman and Raelee Fourkiller organized the walkout at their school in unity with the rest of their peers around the country hoping to take a stand against gun violence.

“We did it to demonstrate that we have power in our voices and that these students behind us have power too, and we want them to utilize it to their fullest,” said Bateman. “I think it is very important to remember that this walk out isn’t about us or by us, it is in solidarity with other schools around the nation who are also participating in the walk out. We are just a little ripple in the pond, just a few drops in the bucket of students who are overflowing and who are tired of not being heard.”

Bateman said although some of the parents, faculty and even students weren’t “too big” on the walkout, the administration allowed them their time.

“They didn’t like the word protest, it is sort of a protest but a silent and peaceful protest. It wasn’t mandatory at all, but it was definitely a big step for those that did come out. A lot of people came out and supported it today and that is really important,” she said.

Sequoyah’s speech and theater teacher Amanda Ray said it was “inspiring” to see students taking the initiative to speak out and care about something such as gun control and showing respect for students who have been victims of mass shootings all over the country.

“I saw all of my speech and theater students out here because they know to be here and they know to have a voice,” she said. “We have talked extensively about gun control and common-sense-gun laws in my speech and debate classes. To me it’s so important to educate them because so many students are coming here and they aren’t educated on common sense gun laws, so to be able to help in that education here at Sequoyah is incredibly important and necessary.”

With their walkout also geared towards school safety, Fourkiller said she hopes people will understand the important roll teachers play in the school system and in turn will start “talking” about teacher salaries.

“With the 284 lives that were lost, their had to be people there protecting them. Teachers, staff members and faculty, they were all in the building at the same time, which hits on why aren’t teachers being paid enough. People need to be talking about that. We need to be talking about the education system in America, and we need to be standing with teachers in April when they walk out too,” said Fourkiller.

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