Thursday, March 15, 2018
By Graig Graziosi
Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” played over the school’s PA system as nearly 300 Campbell Memorial High School students walked out the front doors and into the frigid, 27-degree air to join the national protest against gun violence.
Cold but dedicated students stood outside listening to an address prepared by the junior English class that organized the walkout. The speech was read in English, Greek and Spanish to reflect the community’s diversity and included calls for restrictions on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and stricter background checks.
The class – taught by Colleen Joss – was studying Henry David Thoreau and civil disobedience, which inspired the students to organize their own walkout to coincide with the national event.
Maria Meris, 17, Kaleecia Addison, 17, and Shaneira Garcia, 17, delivered the address after reading the names of those killed during the Parkland, Fla., shooting.
“After today, it makes me wonder why people wouldn’t walk with us,” Meris said. “We’re about humanity and humility, not against individual rights.”
The students didn’t stand alone in their protest. Mayor Nick Phillips, city council President George Levendis, police Chief Dennis Puskarcik and numerous city employees attended the walkout and greeted students. Campbell police officers were positioned along the students’ walking route.
Once the students re-entered the school, Puskarcik met with five of the students who organized the walkout and told them he and the police were committed to protecting them and were available to hear any of their concerns.
Principal Brad Yeager said the school became aware of the walkout a little more than a week before the event, and that he, the school’s vice principal Brian Nichols and district Superintendent Matthew Bowen agreed to support the students’ efforts.
“We didn’t encourage or discourage any side of the Second Amendment issue. We viewed this as a chance to support the students in expressing their First Amendment rights,” Yeager said. “It’s wonderful when you see kids you care about dearly standing up for what they believe in and pulling off something like this.”