Corvallis Students Say “Enough!”

Shots were fired from an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle at Marjory Stone High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14.  Those shots were heard inside every classroom across the United States. 

The children of America are fed up with accepting any threat of an active shooter storming into their classrooms. The number of recent school shootings and threats has triggered the proverbial activism button in a most colossal and groundbreaking way. Students across the country are organizing in protest against gun violence in schools, sending a message to country leaders and the world at large about their right to attend safe schools.

One of the most outspoken and well-known of these students is Stoneman Douglas shooting survivor, Emma Gonzalez. Her voice rang loud and clear in the now highly publicized anti-gun rally speech she gave a mere two days after the shooting. Two days later, a student-led activist movement emerged with a name and hashtag: Never Again.  

Following was a call for stricter background checks for gun buyers, and a plan for a nationwide protest entitled “March for Our Lives,” scheduled to occur across the country on March 24. 

How are local high school students reacting to these events? Turns out, Corvallis students are more than ready to vocalize how violence in schools has affected them. And their taking action executing multiple local events.  

Enough Corvallis Walkout
On March 14, Corvallis students organized and participated in the “Enough Corvallis Walkout.” 

At 10 a.m. – exactly one month after the massacre in Parkland, FL – local students joined others across the country and left their classrooms to peacefully protest Congress’s inability to pass safe school laws. 

Two Corvallis High School students, Julia Keon and Kari Gottfried, organized the Enough Corvallis Walkout  at CHS, while encouraging students at Crescent Valley and local middle schools to organize their own peaceful walkouts.  

The students stayed out of school for seventeen minutes – one minute for every life lost in the Florida shooting.

CHS junior and ski racing captain Julia Keon says that she has lived what has felt like a sheltered life in Corvallis, but still desires to change things for the better. 

“I am very excited to help bring our community, especially students, together to add our voices to the thousands calling for the right that every student should have to walk into school, be safe, and return to their families at the end of the day.”

“I am not somebody who often speaks up,” says Keon, “but these past weeks, months, and years of violence and political inaction have led us, the next generation to vote, to say, ‘Enough!’”

Co-organizer Gottfried is also a junior and the editor of the school newspaper. Gottfried has a deep devotion to social justice work. 

 “I clearly remember sitting in my sixth grade math class when I learned about Sandy Hook,” said Gottfried. “I was shocked and scared by the news, and now, years later, nothing has changed.”

“I hope that the power of my voice, when combined with the thousands of other students speaking up, will be able to do something to keep me and my fellow students across the country safe.” 

March for Our Lives Corvallis
Another CHS student enacting change is junior Grace Knutsen. Knutsen was working on a story for the CHS newspaper when she realized that no one had organized a “March for Our Lives” protest in Corvallis. So she set about to make it happen. 

Now Knutsen is inviting all students, parents, friends, and community members who support the #NeverAgain movement, to attend “March for Our Lives-Corvallis” on March 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Uniting as one collective voice, attendees will take to the streets of Corvallis for a peaceful protest regarding gun policies and rampant school shootings across the nation. 

“We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that addresses the public health crisis of gun violence. We want Congress to pay attention and take note: many of us will vote this November and many others will join in 2020,” Knutsen passionately remarked.

Knutsen, along with Keon and Gottfried, had to ask permission to carry out their events. Keon and Gottfried had to ask the Principal of CHS if they were allowed to perform the walkout. In response, Corvallis School District (CSD) Superintendent Ryan Noss sent out an email to all parents in the district. 

The email stated that the CSD Board Policy “allows for student demonstrations that are scheduled with building administration in advance and that do not disrupt classroom activities. Students may not leave campus and must follow district policy. Staff will not participate in walkouts, except to provide supervision for student safety.” 

The topic of the walkout went before the entire School District, and district board members gave the “Enough Corvallis” walkout their full support. 

Knutsen’s large-scale protest march takes place in locations outside of school grounds. She had to apply for permits through the City of Corvallis and is enlisting the help of many volunteers for the day of the event. 

Student Comments, Concerns
This author’s daughter, Madeleine Moreland – a senior at CHS and Editor-in-Chief of the Yearbook – asked a few questions around the halls. 

Moreland asked junior Orion Bibee if he was afraid to go to school after the shooting in Florida. 

“It made me question whether or not our school is fully prepared for a shooting,” said Bibee. “I’m not scared to go to school, but sometimes it still crosses my mind, like, ‘What if happens to me?’” 

When asked for his thoughts on the walkout and upcoming protest, Bibee replied that he feels that the action taken by students empowers some, but doubts any influence it can carry politically. 

Moreland also asked multiple teachers to give their take on the issue, but always got the same reply – teachers are not allowed to comment on political issues per their contract agreement with the School District. 

Setting Straight National Priorities
Overall, the #NeverAgain movement demands that the lives and safety – of students, faculty, administration, support staff, and school volunteers – become a priority, and is calling out government leaders to make the priority their own.

Seeing the activism of student leaders at CHS is genuinely inspiring. Their generation can help bring about the change needed to make our communities safer. 

In the words of Gottfried, “We’ve had time and time again for thoughts and prayers and moments of silence. This is not a vigil – this is a time for action!”

For updated information and a detailed map of the March 24 protest, follow marchforourlivescorvallis on Facebook and Instagram.

Student protest organizers Julia Keon and Kari Gottfried agreed to be quoted in The Advocate under the disclaimer that they do not always agree with points of view expressed in the paper and what is published.

By Jennifer Moreland

CORRECTION: The original article stated that student Grace Knusten was a sophomore. Knutsen is currently a junior at CHS, as corrected above.