By Liam Scott ’19
On April 20th, National Walkout Day, Loomis students walked out of their B4 classes at 11:00 a.m. to take a stand against gun violence around the country. The walkout was organized by Cathy Hyeon ’18, Blaine Stevens ’18, Caroline Colao ’18, and Anya Sastry ’20.. “We organized the walkout with a common goal in mind: to create unity amongst the Loomis Chaffee community beyond the intense political divides that plague our country in this age,” said Stevens. “The battle against gun violence is a non-partisan battle, and with the walkout, we strived to bring students of all creeds together.”
Loomis Chaffee students and faculty alike congregated in Grubbs quad for one hour and listened to different speeches and performances pertaining to gun violence in America. Dean Liscinsky, commented on the deans’ role in the walkout, saying that “[the walkout was] definitely a student initiative,” and she and her fellow deans only offered “support.”
Caroline Colao began with a speech that touched upon lesser known types of gun violence, including suicide and domestic violence. She also encouraged all Loomis students to get involved with local politics. Such advice was present throughout many other speeches, including that of Anya Sastry. In Caroline’s words, “We can forget about gun violence once we’ve ended gun violence.”
Cathy Hyeon followed, speaking from personal experience living in Sandy Hook. “I walked out, for I once knew exactly how the students of Parkland are feeling.”
Echoes of “please, please, don’t shoot” rang through the quad during a spoken word poem by Oumi Sowe ‘20. The cutting poem exacerbated the chill brought about by the cold wind.
Simone Moales ‘21 and Loren Jones ’21 both sang “Change” by Christina Aguilera, a song that underscores the importance of equality and compassion.
The organizers of the walkout went to great efforts to make this event as nonpartisan as possible. Although, Dean Liscinsky questioned, “how can anything be nonpartisan when issues are that big?” she agreed that the student organizers certainly worked to include a “wide range of opinions.”
Jack Costello ’18 and Aidan Murphy ’18 gave a conservative perspective, explaining that they “don’t believe we should ban semi-automatic weapons” because that would essentially lead to the government’s banning of other “technically killers,” such as alcohol and cigarettes. “Wouldn’t you feel restricted if the government took [those things] away from you?” Potential black market sales were also brought up. “Look at the drug epidemic. They’re all illegal, but citizens get them.” Another main point of their speech was stressing the importance of unity.
Still, there were some who had different opinions regarding the walkout. Patrick Pugliese ’18 shared his thoughts. “Although the nationwide participation of the walkout is commendable, the efficacy in regards to enacting definitive policy on the matter remains debatable. The vague nature of the protest encouraged participation, but only complicated possible tangible solutions to them. In order to be more effective, the protests must be more specific in their aims, lest they end up with a failure of resulting legislation similar to the Occupy Wall Street movement.” Cara Keogh ’18 added that the walkout “was also a valuable experience for students who did not want to participate [in the greater movement] or who had differing opinions.”
“I see our faces in those people who die,” Blaine Stevens explained. “I know these people; I know them. We are them…This tragedy is not mine, but how can I see faces on the news so similar to me and my friend, and not grieve the losses? We are not the Columbine generation, but the activist generation, the change making generation.”
There was still confusion among students regarding whether or not they would be deeped by a teacher if they walked out. Such concerns are valid. For example, what if walking out means missing a test? A walkout is civil disobedience and an opportunity to take a stand for something you believe in. Civil disobedience intrinsically demands that something be put at risk. In Cathy Hyeon’s words, “We as a prep school participated because [gun violence] affects all people.”
“Civil disobedience is a really interesting thing for kids to wrap their head around. What matters to you? How much does it matter? What does that really mean?” said Dean Liscinsky.
Ultimately, Loomis is a school. We learn here, but education is not necessarily restricted to the classroom. Dean Liscinsky put it eloquently: “For me, the outside of the classroom stuff is incredibly important for understanding your place in the world, and understanding the impact you can have on others.”