Dozens of East Lansing High School students, many dressed in the blue and gold colors of Oxford High School, walked out of class and into the falling snow Friday, Dec. 3, to take a stand against gun violence and remember the four students shot and killed by a classmate earlier that week.
Three students spoke at the walk-out, naming the victims of the school shooting at Oxford High School on Tuesday, Nov. 30: Hana St. Juliana, 14; Tate Myre, 16; Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17. Seven other people were injured at the high school in northern Oakland County, Michigan.
The speakers were seniors Annie McIlhagga, Finni Padgett, and Dominic Edwards.
Sophomore Alec Wheeler, 15, said students slowly filled up the open space in front of the school. Students stood with their heads bowed and respectfully listened while a few chatted about the events. The speakers sent out condolences to the families of the victims and moved to the topic of gun control. They also had a moment of silence for the victims.
“I think it was more about respecting the victims instead of calling for gun control. It was a chance to show our respect and honor those who had died,” Wheeler said. “The incident was very sad, very unfortunate. There is nothing to justify the killing of those four students. My condolences go out to the family.”
Principal Andrew Wells also spoke briefly but emotionally at the rally, thanking the students for being safe and caring for each other. He also made sure there was extra security at the school during the rally by blocking off all car entrances to the school and placing police officers throughout the grounds. Teachers and administrators were also patrolling outside the school during the rally.
The students were circulating a petition in support of making schools safer and had a banner for students to express their condolences. The banner will be sent to Oxford High School, which is about an hour away from East Lansing.
East Lansing School Superintendent Dori Leyko said in a letter to parents Friday:
“This morning, East Lansing High School student leaders held a walkout to express their solidarity with Oxford High School and to advocate for increased gun control.”
“This walkout was optional for students and adults to attend and lasted approximately 16 minutes. We are proud to support our students in expressing themselves in a safe and organized manner and in partnership with our school and district administrators. The walkout was well-attended, and the speeches made by our students were heartfelt and compelling – I think the voice of our students has the potential to make a difference in gun control laws. I am so proud and thankful to work in a district that values and promotes student voice and advocacy and am constantly amazed by the words and action of our students.”
She added that the administration was actively watching social media for any concerning posts and have not found anything threatening.
“If we are made aware of threats to our school community, we will work with families and the East Lansing Police Department to determine the extent of their credibility and will be in communication with our school community,” wrote Leyko. “We strongly encourage students and families to report any concerning behavior, comments and social media posts to a trusted adult in our schools or to use OK2SAY to anonymously report these concerns at https://ok2say.state.mi.us/.”
Leyko also said that there are connections to Oxford High School within the school staff, students, and families. She also provided resources to guide class discussions “as students express their questions and feelings about the shootings.”
This is not the first time students at ELHS held a walk-out in response to school shootings. One month after 17 students were killed by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb, 14, 2018, ELHS students held a walk out to protest gun violence and government inaction over gun regulation.
Exactly one year later on Mar. 14, 2019, ELHS students held a second walk out in continued protest against the lack of action on gun violence.
Disclosure: Alec Wheeler is the son of Karessa Wheeler, the author of this article.
ELi provides in-depth coverage of your local public schools Make sure that reporting continues in 2022!