Columns, Opinion

American Protest: It’s unfair to blame students for shootings

In wake of the mass shootings that have been claiming the lives of high school students, people are trying to figure out how we can stop these tragedies and keep our children safe.

Many students across the country have found that the best way to express their grief and anger is by walking out of their classrooms for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. This form of protest has certainly made headlines and sent a very clear message.

Some people have responded by suggesting students to “walk up” instead of walk out. “Walk up” is the idea of walking up to ostracized or bullied students who could be potential shooters.

The intent behind walking up is that by talking to the quiet, bullied student and making them feel a part of the community, they will be less likely to murder their peers. Of course, preventing bullying is a wonderful thing, and every student should stand up to bullies, but this strategy is not what we need right now.

If someone is going to shoot up a school, one person walking up to them is not going to change that from happening. You have to be in an intense mindset in order to go through with something like that, it is unlikely that a child could change this mindset.

I do not think a student who might murder their peers is going to be someone students want to approach, either. In the case of Parkland, the shooter clearly had some serious problems, and nothing was going to change that besides seeking professional help or not having access to a gun.

Children should not be convinced to make friends with the “weird kid,” so he will not kill them. That is a sad way to deal with the situation and does not seem very proactive.

Additionally, further ostracizing a student by forcing kids to go up to them is not going to help the situation. Having kids walk up to students that they think might shoot up the school will be obvious to both the kids and make the potential shooter even more ostracized from their peers.

Forcing students to walk up carries the connotation that they are in some way responsible for school shootings. If they don’t do something about it, these shootings will keep happening. This is known as victim-blaming because it suggests that students who were killed in Parkland died because they weren’t nice enough. 

No student is responsible for another student killing dozens of their peers, and no student can stop these murders by simply being nice. It is a nice idea, but it is not the reality we are living with right now.

Trying to invalidate the walkout by offering alternative solutions is taking away from the students who want to grieve and protest in a visible way. These walkouts were planned to make a statement, and we should not be coming up with alternatives to minimize that statement.

The walkout shows that students want change, and they want it now. This is what people need to be paying attention to. Obviously, students should be creating a friendly environment in school and not bullying their peers, but right now, we need to do something much more proactive and long-term.

Students do not bear the responsibility to stop these shootings and walking up is simply not enough to make change. Legislation and tangible change needs to be made to keep our students safe from these tragedies.

As a country, we need to find a balance between dealing with mental health and gun laws in order to make a difference. The two should not be pitted against each other, and most importantly, our students should not have to bear the burden to make this change all on their own.

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