Stonington High School ceremony honors victims of gun violence without sparking controversy

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SHS students gather on the gymnasium floor to honor the seventeen lives lost in the Parkland school shooting.

SHS students gather on the gymnasium floor to honor the seventeen lives lost in the Parkland school shooting.

SHS students gather on the gymnasium floor to honor the seventeen lives lost in the Parkland school shooting.

Story by Jessica Weber, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Last Wednesday, March 14th, exactly a month after the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Stonington High School held an optional ceremonial assembly in the gymnasium to honor the seventeen lives lost in the mass shooting. The ceremony was student-run –organized by a small group of students, including seniors Madison-Rose Britto and Trinity Lennon and juniors Hannah Lamb and Daisy Williams.

Organizing the ceremony was no easy task; the rumors of graduation privileges being revoked, in-school-suspensions being administered, and other possible punishments had to be put at bay. The group of students that organized the event fought hard to have an official walk-out, an event that concerned administration due to safety issues. The indoor assembly was originally a “walk-in,” where students would walk into SHS together before the first bell and continue on to attend an assembly. The walk-in eventually turned into a walk-out onto the bleachers, but was moved indoors due to inclement weather.

After being dismissed from class, students and teachers voluntarily gathered in the gymnasium. Williams began the ceremony by stating, “We are standing here today in order to send the message that we’ve had enough. The 17 that lost their lives on February 14th died because of the gun violence entrenched in modern society. We are ready for a change and those of you with us today have joined this movement.”

Williams’s opening remarks were followed by seventeen SHS students reading the names and biographies of the victims. Seventeen seconds of silence and the ringing of a triangle followed each reading.

Senior Maddie Britto explained how Stonington High School will soon implement the Sandy Hook Promise’s Say Something Program–an app that allows for anonymous reporting of potentially violent or threatening behavior. The program was founded after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, which resulted in 26 deaths.

Seniors Trinity Lennon and Corinne Tillinghast and junior Hannah Lamb urged the student body to use the powers they do have for good, whether that be voting in midterm elections or marching at the “March For Our Lives: Stonington” demonstration happening this coming Saturday at Stonington High School.

Those who did not wish to participate in the ceremony remained in the cafeteria-commons, using this time as a designated study hall. Others remained in the commons, protesting the neutrality of the ceremony–an aspect that pervaded students’ conversations for weeks.

Many students, some more vocal than others, felt that the ceremony’s attempt to avoid the mention of gun control took meaning away from the demonstration. The nationwide school walkout movement was organized by the teenage survivors of the shooting in Parkland to raise awareness of the dangers of semi-automatic weapons, bump stocks, and gun violence in American society. The absence of a call to action against pro-gun legislation was absent, despite many students’ wishes.

The voices of students who felt the ceremony was not extreme or political enough was channeled through junior Caroline Morehouse, who wrote and published an article in the Westerly Sun, detailing the process of organizing the walk-out-turned-ceremony and explaining why she felt that gun-control should have been openly discussed.

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Stonington High School ceremony honors victims of gun violence without sparking controversy