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Some educators say student protests are teachable moments for schools

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO News (file photo)
Nottingham High School students peel off the tape from a fake crime scene at a gun violence protest in the gym.

As part of National Walkout Day on Wednesday, high school students in Syracuse organized a rally to remember the victims of the Parkland, Florida shooting and support more gun control. Some educators hope the movement will create more politically engaged students.

Saoirse Murphy-Collins, a junior at Nottingham High School, helped organize Wednesday's protest in the school’s gym.

“The problem with gun violence is a really big issue in this nation and we’re trying to get it under control so more students don’t die and people get hurt,” Murphy-Collins said.

Lucian de Nevers, a sophomore at Nottingham High School, said no one should have to go to school and be afraid that there could be a shooting.

“In this country, there are lots of people that have too many guns and have guns that they don’t really need," de Nevers said. "We just want to do something to help change that. I would like our congressman to do something about it. AR-15 ban, something like that. Get out of the pocket of the NRA.”

Beth Ferri, a professor of inclusive education and disability studies at Syracuse University, said similar calls for gun control and policy changes have followed other high profile shootings. But she said this one feels different, because it is being led by students themselves.

“Here you see really articulate and politically astute students demanding the future they deserve,” Ferri said.

Ferri said students in Syracuse can identify with students in Parkland, who probably never thought a shooting could happen at their school. And she said students want political leaders to use their power to change gun laws. Some states are answering those calls, like in Florida.

Ferri said she was disappointed that some schools in central New York, where students were planning protests, closed yesterday due to the weather, because the protests are a teachable moment.

“I think it’s an opportunity to talk about civic engagement, to talk about political change and how it happens and what are the responsibilities of citizenship," Ferri said.

Nottingham High School and the Syracuse City School District approved of the students protest on Wednesday and voter registration sheets were made available to students 18 years old.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.