Breaking News: West Walks Out in Solidarity with Parkland

Vinnie Bellissimo
Student holds up a sign to advocate for victims of gun violence.

By Divitya Vakil, News Editor

“We are students, we are victims, we are change,” echoed through the hallways at 9:47 a.m. as students strode toward the front entrance of the school. Momentum gained until hundreds of students gathered on the front steps, listening to student leaders’ messages about solidarity and gun violence.

As the remainder of the students gathered outside, senior Noor Alassdi began her speech detailing the purpose of the walkout and how it impacts West.

“We, the students of Niles West High School, are out here today to stand in solidarity with the 17 people who tragically and prematurely lost their lives due to gun violence in Parkland, FL.,” Alassdi said. “We stand out here today to let those students know that they are not alone in the fight for student safety. That we, along with an entire nation of students and teachers, stand firmly beside them.”

Following the speech, 17 seconds of silence were taken, one for each person that died at the Majory Stoneman Douglas school shooting. After that, the students walked along Oakton Street, holding their posters and continuing to chant.

“This protest is super important to our school and nation. We need to show that students can, and will stand up for change and what is right. There will always be school controversies, but I think we can all agree that students need protection in schools. We can’t wait for more deaths to occur to make a change. Change is now,” junior Loredana Lohan said. 

Alongside hundreds of protesters, a dozen counter-protesters advocated for the Second Amendment. Senior Kevin Obrien led the counter-protest.

“I believe that it’s my right to go for the second amendment, and I didn’t think that our side of the story was properly shared at the last protest, so I really believe that if you take away guns, you’re giving the government the power to do whatever they want with the people. We need to keep our rights to guns or else we will lose our right to everything else,” Obrien said. “A lot of teachers are definitely against it which I do not agree with, I do not think teachers should be able to share their opinions on politics with students. Teachers have definitely seen me in a different light after this.”

Though teachers were instructed to stay in their classrooms to supervise students not participating in the walkout, many accompanied their students outdoors, as they felt it was their responsibility.

“I cannot disappoint my students because I think that teachers have the responsibility to supervise the students whether they are inside the building or outside the building. I take my responsibility as a teacher very seriously. I feel it’s my responsibility to be with my class. My class talked about it, they came out here and I came out with them,” English teacher Tamara Jaffe-Notier said. 

Assistant Principal of Operations Mark Rigby appreciated that this protest was more organized than the previous one.

“I think it’s going great, I like how everything is coordinated. Of course, I support the cause, I support reducing violence in schools, absolutely. I think they are doing a great job. This is certainly more organized than the previous, unorganized protest,” Rigby said. 

At approximately 10:17 a.m. the students re-entered the building.

Christina Lappas contributed to this story.