Looking for a sign

Students have been leaving the classroom to protest gun violence


Deepa Buhvanagiri, organizer, marches at the St. Louis March for Our Lives, March 24.

On Feb. 14, a former student stormed Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida where he killed 17 people and injured 17 more injured, making this event one of the world’s deadliest school massacres.

Students across America have been walking out of their classrooms to protest gun violence as incidents of such violence increase. The first national walkout was March 14 during RSD’s spring break.

“We’re taking an opportunity to show the community we have a voice,” Noah Baker (12) said. “We want to establish a voice and make sure everyone is heard.”

Deepa Bhuvanagiri and Grace Eickel, organizers, met with Charles Crouther, head principal, April 13, to discuss their plans and outline their goals:

“The purpose of the walk out:

  • Allow opportunity for students to become engaged in the democratic process
  • Empower Eureka’s students to be a powerful influence in our school in order to combat/mitigate violence (in all of its forms) within our school and communities
  • Advocate and educate around mental health issues affecting our school community
  • Respectively call on our elected officials to:
    • Increase funding and effectiveness of social services
    • Implement common sense and non-partisan regulation around weapons of mass violence and other initiatives to increase safety in public spaces”


“It wasn’t until we saw Parkland’s response to their school shooting that we turned our passion into action,” Bhuvanagiri said. “Seeing all those kids taking matters into their own hands and showing the nation that we, as the youth of America, have a powerful voice.”

Organizers have planned on students gathering at a central location where participants will observe 17 minutes of silence for the Parkland shooting victims and student speakers will share their message that emphasizes mental health.

“Everyone has a right to freedom of speech,” Eric Knost, superintendent, said. “The goal is to help kids thrive in the world.”

Two walkouts have been planned. One walkout will be at EHS and later some students will drive downtown to the Missouri Attorney General’s office to protest with other schools from around the county.

“Students want their voices heard,” Crouther said. “They get to express their First Amendment right.”

This exercise of First Amendment rights does not resonate with everyone.

“It’s probably the stupidest thing that has ever happened to this school,” Matthew Monroe (12) said. “It makes absolutely no sense. They’re doing it in a way where they’re disrupting the school environment.”

A reflection of the complexity of the issue, the message of the walkout is unclear.

“It’s an opportunity for people to understand mental health and express how they feel about gun regulations,” Kiley Race (10) said.“We need to understand mental health and mental awareness and not just ban guns but regulate them.”

A study from the American Journal of Public Health shows that fewer than five percent of the 12,000 gun-related killings in the United States between 2001-2010 were perpetrated by people diagnosed with a mental illness.

About 50 students met in the Commons after school to discuss the goals of the walkout, April 13. Jennifer Strauser, associate principal, attended at the invitation of organizers. She shared with those present the consequences of walking out: 30 minutes missed of a class will be one lunch detention, a full class period missed will result in two lunch detentions. None of the detentions will show up on a permanent record.

“The students are very organized in their plans. They want to have a walk out with purpose,” Strauser said. “This is totally student led. We don’t have any control over it or input other than how we can support them.”

Rather than wait for adults to make a change, students are taking these actions into their own hands.

“Students don’t want to see what happened in other schools happen to our school,” Race said. “It’s a horrible thing that can be prevented if we are aware of our surroundings and what’s going on.”