Students protesting against gun violence during school walkout-
Courtesy photo/Ella Boyle
On May 24, 2022, 21 people were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, 19 of which were students. Two days later, Winnacunnet students tried to
participate in a nationwide walkout to mourn the victims. Plans for the walkout were posted on Winnacunnet’s Student Council instagram page, ‘winnacunnetstuco’.However, every time the Student Council posts something, the staff is supposed to know about it.
Earlier that morning, Principal William M
cGowan talked to Student Council members to reschedule the walkout, citing safety issues. A new post was made on instagram to inform the student body that the walkout was canceled for that day.
“I’m responsible for your safety,” McGowan said. “Walking out of school- you cannot do that if I don’t know about it.”
At noon, students decided to walk out anyway. A group formed by the track and football field. Some students had signs, and many started a chant protesting gun violence. Twenty minutes later, McGowan brought the students to the home bleachers to discuss what was happening.
“What have we done today thats positive, by coming out here?” McGowan said to students on the bleachers. “Where’s the community? If we worked together, I could get the community down here.”
Senior Class Secretary Elect, Sydne
y Whalen disagreed with the cancellation of the walk out.
“They said it was for the form of safety,” Whalen said. “I say this is affecting students. I thought it was wrong for them to trample on our right to protest about something involving nationwide safety in schools.”
Whalen said she could see how McGowan would be upset that students walked out, and that she understood how this situation could be difficult for administration.
“I really only got angry when he made the notion that we were being hypocritical by saying by saying, ‘we all played assassin, is that not promoting gun violence?’” Whalen said.
Whalen also disagreed with him about how the students couldn’t just wait for a later time to do more.
“This grabbed your attention, this ended up making national news,” Whalen said. “It was in the ‘USA today’. It made some difference.”
Junior Mary Kirby also disagreed with McGowan’s comment about the game assassin as well.
“Comparing a wet t-shirt to children's lives is very inappropriate and not acceptable whatsoever,” Kirby said. “A water gun is not a real gun, and water is not blood.”
McGowan said that he hadn’t m
eant it to come across that he was comparing the game assassin and gun violence.
“Our society portrays the act of shooting as a pastime,” McGowan said in a later interview. “We’ve got a gun culture. There's a lot of video games, and the object is just to shoot and kill as many people as you can. How do we change the culture? Why are we entertaining this?”
McGowan said that with the amount of guns and gun violence portrayed in the media, is there a connection between that and the gun violence we see in real life?
“How do we stop that? How do I h
elp the school do that, the community here, Winnacunnet high school,” McGowan said.
McGowan said that, for future steps, the school could do a card like they did in support of Ukraine. He said another option could be that he could bring in local and state politicians to talk to students.
Senior Ella Boyle said that she believed the walk out wasn’t meant to be school organized.
“That’s like saying a protest should be city organized, and that’s not how that happens, that’s not how things really start, it’s never how things have started,” Boyle said. “It starts with the people. It doesn’t start with administration.”
Kirby said that she believes the walkout was a good conversation starter, and that the school needs to make further precautions with gun control.
“There are 18 year olds who are allowed to purchase weapons, and there's no control over them in this school,” Kirby said. “Anyone could walk in here and that's the sad thing.”
Officer James DeLuca said that, legally, 18 year olds can purchase and carry a rifle in the state of New Hampshire.
Freshman Faith Redick s
aid she believed that this isn’t just about taking away people's guns.
“This is about what you’re doing with them,” Redick said. “A gun can’t kill a person by itself, it can’t move on its own. The person who picks up the gun is what kills.”
After the shooting, McGowan said he wondered if he should have done something sooner.
“My goal is for students to want to come to school everyday, and as you walk through these doors, you know that you are safe in this building. Everyone in this building is here to support you,” McGowan said. “I need the students' help. I can’t do this by myself.”