The Breeze

SBRHS Students and Staff Have Chance to Take Part in School Walkout

This+photo+was+taken+by+SBRHS+senior+Tayler+Lundquist.
This photo was taken by SBRHS senior Tayler Lundquist.

This photo was taken by SBRHS senior Tayler Lundquist.

This photo was taken by SBRHS senior Tayler Lundquist.

Colby Yokell, Co-Editor

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At 9:45 am on Wednesday, February 28, over 1,000 Somerset Berkley Regional High School students and staff walked out onto the football field to remember and honor the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida and to call for action from state and national leaders.

“Whenever a school tragedy occurs, every member of a school community internalizes it and feels the emotions of what it would be like if it happened to us,” David Lanczycki, the principal of SBRHS, said. “It is our worst nightmare. Every student and staff member wants to feel safe and deserves that.”

During the week of February vacation, Lanczycki received a call from Jeffrey Schoonover, the superintendent of Somerset Public Schools and Somerset Berkley Regional School District, in which he expressed his concerns about the Parkland shooting and the impending nationwide school walkout, scheduled to take place on March 14, which is directed at pushing forward the idea of increased gun control.

Both Lanczycki and Schoonover were concerned about the potential danger of a planned walkout at SBRHS, in which a possible unknown assailant could easily pose a threat to a large group of students that would all be gathered together in the same place on a specified date and time.

Therefore, Lanczycki came up with the idea of creating an unplanned walkout that focused on unity and solidarity instead of political divisiveness and agendas.

“It allowed students to have a voice. It allowed there to be a safer way to do these types of things,” Lanczycki said.

Senior Erin Rapoza was one of the Somerset Berkley students who chose to participate in the walkout on February 28.

“It showed those students and staff that are from that school that even in Massachusetts there is another high school that is there for them in wake of the tragedy that occurred,” Rapoza said.

Before the walkout even took place, Lanczycki came over the loudspeaker in the high school and explained his reasoning behind the surprise walkout and invited students to join him out on the football field if they wanted to participate.

Lanczycki clearly stated that students and staff that did not want to take part in the walkout could go to the Performing Arts Center. No one was forced to participate in the walkout if they did not want to.

An email was also sent out to all of the recipients of the school’s One Call system, alerting parents what was going on in the school, and the sign in the front of the school also explained to passerbys what was happening.

During the walkout, the scoreboard on the football field had six minutes on the clock, representing the length of time of the Parkland shooting, 14 under the home score for the number of people injured, and 17 under the guest score for the number of people killed. Lanczycki read the names and ages of the victims of the Parkland shooting in a moment of silence.

In his speech, Lanczycki also called for action from state and national leaders.

“Let me be completely clear, this was NOT about gun control debates,” Lanczycki said. “I even said that this is not about guns because I did not want this to be mistaken as a political stance. I referenced our students as our future and the staff who are charged with molding the future.”

Lanczycki also discussed putting aside our differences and coming together as a school and as a town. “We need to support each other. We are courageous, not cowardly. We are vigilant, not victims. We are strong, not scared,” Lanczycki said.

At the end of the walkout, three football players led a “We are Raiders” chant, and everyone put their left hand around the waist of the person next to them and raised their right fist to show unity.

“I wanted a chance to be able to respect and honor the lives we lost,” senior Eric Rogers, who also participated in the walkout, said. “I felt like this was one of my only chances to be able to honor those lost and call for change without necessarily showing support for one political cause or another. I could come together with my school and say ‘even though we all don’t agree on how to go about making our schools safer, we have to come together to make change.’”

Lanczycki said that he personally chose to walk out because he believes in honoring the Parkland victims and feels that there needs to be change in some form. He believes that the February 28 walkout was a model for students on how to use their voices in a respectful and organized way.

Rapoza says that she believes “there needs to be change in order to protect our fellow students in schools that are supposed to be a safe environment to learn and to educate the future populous of America.”

On February 28, about 20 students and 5 or 6 teachers chose not to participate in the walkout.

Christian Rose, a senior who chose not to participate in the walkout, knew that there was going to be a good amount of students that would participate just because they would get to walk out of school and would make a mockery of the event.

“It is not because I don’t care, or that I have shown no empathy towards the students who lost their lives, or just totally disrespecting the whole movement,” Rose said. “If I am going to walk out and protest something, I want to be surrounded with people that have the same mindset as me and seriousness, and actually try and make a point.”

While in the Performing Arts Center, Rose talked with other students and staff that chose to remain inside. He said that many of the people that chose to remain inside had the same mindset as him while some other students were making up tests or did not really care about whether or not they walked out.

“I was proud for making my decision, because I want people to believe that they can make whatever choices they want in the world without having the fear of being judged,” Rose said. “If everyone could just take a second and get to know someone and understand them, we would live in a much better place.”

Rose said that he did face some backlash from some of the students that did walk out, but after he explained himself, people were able to understand and respect his rationale for choosing to stay in the school.

However, most students agree that the event was very unifying.

“It definitely showed support for those affected and overall showed positivity,” Rapoza said. “It also helped that we did not pick a political affiliation which made both the liberal and conservative-minded students feel more unified because they could both support the victims without having to discuss gun control.”

Rogers said that as a conservative, it is easy to feel ostracized sometimes. However, he said that “Mr. Lanczycki did an amazing job making sure that this wasn’t an issue of right or left, but of Americans and Raiders wanting better for our country and for our schools.”

Recently, Lanczycki has faced some backlash about the press that was covering the event, which some students believe made the walkout feel like a public spectacle.

“Part of the purpose was for Parkland to know that we were thinking of them. If we just went out onto the football field without any press, Parkland probably wouldn’t find out about it. We wanted to try to increase the chances,” Lanczycki said.

Also, the walkout has recently received a lot of negative attention from the public, who has viewed it as Lanczycki forwarding his own political beliefs, implanting his own opinions into his students’ minds, or pointlessly wasting time that could have been spent teaching.

Lanczycki wanted to respond to these comments with a “thank you,” because he tries to teach a lesson to his students with everything the school does. He stated that everyone is entitled to their own opinion. However, he believes that the negative attention highlighted that a lot of people had misinformation and decided to comment or post before they knew the entire story or whether the information they had was accurate.

“As long as you guys as the next generation learn to make sure that you have all of the information and that it’s accurate, I’ll take a beating if we all are better in the future for it,” Lanczycki said.

Though Lanczycki hopes that the February walkout was a satisfying alternative for students that were planning on participating in the March 14 walkout, some students are committed to walking out in March nonetheless.

The administration at SBRHS is still deciding what the repercussions will be for participating in this walkout or if there will be any punishments at all. Lanczycki said that he is “not in the business of repercussions, or else we wouldn’t have done what we did.”

Rose said that despite not walking out on February 28, he will most likely walk out on March 14. “I know that the people that are willing to do it that day are the ones that will be serious and the ones that I want to be surrounded with,” Rose said.

He also said that it would be a dream come true for him if he had the opportunity to talk to local leaders to share his opinion on the changes that need to be made to create a safer environment.

Rapoza will also participate in the walkout on March 14, regardless of the consequences.

“I will be walking out to demand change so that future generations of students will not have to go through ALICE drills and hear about frequent attempts and school shootings. I will be walking out with millions across the country in hopes the government will hear our cry and do something about it so that we can be safe,” Rapoza said.

The SBRHS school walkout had an impact on Rogers. “It allowed me to mourn a tragedy and publicly voice my own want for change, which I feel like I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do if this assembly wasn’t held at all,” said Rogers.

Rapoza gained a lot of respect for Lanczycki for his heartfelt tribute to the victims.

However, Rogers pointed out that “if we want to make change, we can’t stop here and pat ourselves on the back for making a small ripple in a pool. If we want to make change, we have to not stop until we see what we want, happen.”

Lanczycki hopes that his students took away the fact that “sometimes we get caught up in our own lives and our own differences. The walkout was a way for me to bring us all together and to show how similar we all actually are. We’re all in this together and we all have to look out for each other.”

This photo was taken by SBRHS senior Tayler Lundquist.

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