Thousands of high school students across the shore participated in a nationwide “walkout” effort as a show of support for victims in last month’s Florida school shooting and advocation for tighter gun control. Locally, there were several walkouts and other demonstrations held for the same reasons.
Although it’s exciting to see young minds rally for a political position and seek solidarity behind a view point, an unlikely reaction to the organized national “walkout” movement was a grassroots “walkup” effort, sparked by teachers in their classrooms and further spread through social media.
In response to the “walkout” effort, one Virginia teacher turned this “walkup” effort into something positive and influential in the short term. An Arcadia Middle School sixth-grade teacher wanted to ensure her “walk up not out” message was overtly positive rather than extremely political. Her handwritten message encouraged students to be kind and nice through walking up to those who normally you would not associate with. Many other teachers across the country embraced this message.
“Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up — walk up to the kid who sits alone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile, and say Hi; walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask what he is doing; walk up to your teachers and thank them; walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them — you may be surprised at how much you have in common,” a distributed message read.
Although the message appears wholesome and positive, there are some who maintained this week that it seemed to indicate students in Parkland, Fla. were somehow responsible for the heinous actions of the gunman. Some maintained it suggests if students were nicer to the teen and he didn’t feel alienated, the violence would have never occurred.
Unfortunately, that’s an extreme view that would be missing the point. The “walk up not out” message was simply a way of turning an activist moment into a reminder for students and culture in general to embrace our differences.
What happened in Florida is a major mental health issue as well as a gun control matter. It’s not about bullying in our opinion. However, taking the opportunity when emotions are high and memories are ripe to shine the light on the importance of inclusion and tolerance is especially laudable.
It was interesting this week to see those in favor of the “walkout” campaign express offense and outrage over the “walkup” movement. They are both seeking similar goals – change. They just go about differently. In our opinion, both efforts are commendable.