Old Enough to Get Shot, Too Young to Protest

I remember being 5-years-old and hearing “Mr. Armstrong is in the building” come over the announcements. This was my school’s code for “someone hostile is in the building.” I crouched and hid with 30 other children and our elderly teacher in the back of our classroom hoping that no one could see us through the window. We stayed silent because we didn’t know if that would be the day that we were shot and killed.

When I was in 8th grade, the English classroom was right next to the entrance. When a code red was called, we once again huddled in the back corner of the room like scared kindergarteners. One boy wouldn’t stop talking no matter how much the teacher quietly scolded him. We all knew that if someone with a gun came in, we would be the first to go.

In 10th grade, I was in study hall when a code red was called. There was a substitute that day, and she didn’t have a key to lock the door. My English teacher didn’t have her keys that day either, so she brought her class into our classroom. She pushed a table in front of the door and said that if anyone came in, she would throw books at them so we could escape out the window.

Shooting drills were fairly common throughout elementary, middle and high school. Each time, the students had no idea if they were just drills. As I got older, it seemed like school shootings became more and more frequent and deadly. Every time I heard about a shooting, I wondered if my school would be next.

School shootings have been very real threats for decades. Students don't know if today will be the day that they are murdered in math class. Students are not safe at school, and they know that. Children and teens should never have to worry about being shot, especially in a place that is supposed to be safe for them.

When I was in high school (and younger), we just accepted the fact that we could be victims of school shootings. Of course, we were not okay with the possibility, but we didn’t know that we could do anything about it. After 17 people were murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, survivors would not let what happened become a distant memory, and students across the country joined them.

Telling these brave students to sit down and be quiet is insulting beyond words. All of the students who have decided to walk out, march and/or speak out about gun violence know exactly what they are taking a stand on. Students have been aware of shooting for their entire lives, so saying that they are too young is being dismissive and ignorant. You don’t have to agree with what these students stand for, but don’t you dare say they are too young to understand.

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