By CRISTINA JANNEY
Increasing the age to buy guns, school resource officers, veterans or retired law enforcement officers to protect schools and more active shooter drills are all ideas Hays High School students offered Wednesday to make schools safer.
Approximately 75 to 100 Hays High School students walked out of school at 10 a.m. Wednesday to stage a silent protest against school violence.
The 10 a.m. protest corresponded with the time of a shooting Feb. 14 at a Florida high school in which 17 people were killed.
The students sat quietly as HHS Principal Martin Straub and other staff looked on for 17 minutes, one minute for each person who was killed in the Florida attack. Some students held signs with slogans such as “#Enough is enough,” “18th century laws cannot regulate 21st century weapons,” “Protect kids not guns,” and “Our school, our town, our state, our laws, and soon enough our vote.”
Noelia Villa, a senior at HHS who participated in the protest, said there have been enough school shootings, and something needs to be done.
“There has been so many shootings around the nation,” she said. “I think something needs to be done. Seventeen Florida victims, Sandyhook … I think it is about time that all of us stand up for them. They were so young, and they didn’t have a chance to live out their lives. I just think we should pay our respects to them.”
Villa said schools need more money to provide safety for students and faculty. She also said she would like to see Hays schools have school resource officers. Hays schools had resource officers provided by the Hays Police Department, but they were cut due to lack of funding.
Mulu Bannister, a HHS sophomore who participated in the protest, wore orange today to show her solidarity with students across the nation who also were set to walk out of schools today.
“I think our school needs more drills. We do drills for fire and tornadoes, but we don’t really do drills for what to do if someone comes into our schools. Little kids don’t know what to do in that kind of situation. I feel we could do more drills,” she said.
Both students thought the age to buy guns should be raised to 21 as it recently was in Florida.
After the shooting in February, Kaiden VanSchuyver, HHS student, started a petition to have retired police officers and veterans placed in schools for protection.
“I started the petition to try and stop gun violence in schools,” he said via an email. “Politicians never get things done on this topic. They have always used tragedies to push their agenda. Instead of waiting, I decided to act upon this issue by myself.
“I believe it would be a good idea to have veterans and retired law enforcement officers in schools because having the security would prevent these tragedies from happening. If we armed good citizens with the proper training, they could stop the bad citizens from performing these horrible acts.”
VanSchuyver has collected 256 signatures so far and is aiming to collect more by sharing online links to the petition via social media.
You can sign the petition by clicking here.
VanSchuyver said he did not plan to participate in the school walk out today.
“I feel, and know, that everyone has a right to protest, but I feel that they shouldn’t do it during school hours,” he said. “Another reason why I didn’t do the school walk out is I don’t really believe in gun control. I feel gun control doesn’t work because if the government takes away certain guns, then the law-abiding citizens wouldn’t have a way to protect themselves. Whereas the criminals would/will find a way to get guns. It’s like drugs. The government banned drugs, yet drug dealers and other people find a way to get them.”
Straub said the students will not be disciplined for the walk out. He said the students communicated with the HHS administration and staff and caused no problems during the protest. All students stayed on campus. The only disruption was students missing passing period and being late to their next class.
Straub, a former social studies teacher, said the students were making a powerful statement while being respectful. He said the protest was in the vain of two of his heroes Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.
“Without being political, who is not for school safety?” he said.
Although Hays Middle School had a number of students stage their own walk out on Feb. 26, the school reported no walk outs today.
Thomas More Prep-Marian Principal Chad Meitner also reported no walk outs at that school. He said TMP has tried to address school safety through the school’s regular drills. The school has had crisis drills for the last several years, and he said the school has tried to be more in-depth with how it works with students and parents on the drills since the shooting in Florida.
The Hays school district continues discuss its crisis plan and notification of the public of threats following an alleged school threat by a HHS student on Feb. 12. The public was not notified of the threat until five days later. The school board discussed a desire to have a written notification policy at its meeting Monday night.