Andover High School students were shaken up after hearing about the 17 people who were killed and many more who were injured in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting Wednesday. They were quiet Thursday morning, and they held a moment of silence at the end of the day, but it didn’t feel like enough.
So Charlotte Lowell, a 17-year-old Andover High School senior, decided she was going to take charge. She wrote up an impromptu letter Thursday night and posted it on a class Facebook page, urging her classmates to join her in a Friday afternoon sit-in to discuss gun violence in America and how the nation has been addressing it. The post was reposted and shared in several other Facebook groups in an attempt to reach the whole school, she said.
“I can’t completely understand why the catalyst occurred yesterday, but something in the absolute dismissal of gun violence in America, mostly by the national government, seems really appalling and embarrassing to me,” Lowell said Friday.
At 1:20 p.m., Lowell and more than 100 students stood up, walked out of their classrooms, and gathered on the floor of the school cafeteria for a 40-minute discussion covering possible solutions to gun violence, said Andover Superintendent Sheldon Berman and Philip Conrad, the high school’s principal, in a joint statement.
“I am proud of our students for their conscientious approach to this issue and for their desire to share their feelings and concerns in an open forum,” the statement said. “Nothing is more important than ensuring that our students feel safe at school, that their voices are heard and taken seriously, and that they are actively involved in the school community.”
Berman and Conrad also said they hoped families would continue to facilitate a similar conversation at home.
Susan Choquette, a theater arts teacher who attended the sit-in, said she thinks students and faculty throughout the nation feel very vulnerable right now. “I feel like our students and our teachers are pretty powerless over what’s happening,” Choquette said. “And I’m really proud of the students who were involved because I feel like they took an action that made them feel less powerless.”
The students spent a long time discussing two ideas in particular: one that pushed the school to offer more gun education to students, and another that explored the role of masculinity in young men.
“We talked about how small steps can lead to big changes and how gun violence education in school could maybe have a big impact on what’s going on,” said sophomore Julia Toomey, who attended the sit-in. “We also talked about how laws don’t really protect us enough and how it’s not fair that we don’t feel safe in our own school.”