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A protest is a conversation starter, and it's started one in Bend 

click to enlarge A student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws.
  • A student lie-in at the White House to protest gun laws.

A local social media thread concerning gun safety in Bend-La Pine Schools erupted this week, with some parents, teachers and other adults questioning the effectiveness of the 17-minute long protest scheduled for March 14 at schools nationwide. To recap, school walkouts were scheduled for the 14th as well as April 20, both at 10am. The first one will last a mere 17 minutes—each of the 17 minutes representing one of the students killed in the school shootings in Parkland, Fla., last month.

On that thread, some adults questioned why students didn't simply protest on days when school would otherwise be out, why they didn't choose a better time, why they didn't choose a "better" form of protest.

Simply put, our students are fed up—and in a world of constant distraction, we should be impressed that our youth have organized in such a way, in schools across the country, to get adults to pay attention. After all, a protest is nothing in itself. It's disruptive, yes, and that's the source of some adults' concerns. But a protest is also a conversation starter, and these two protests are doing just that.

These protests are spurring an overdue conversation about gun safety, and about pressing our legislators to do more to tighten background checks, at the very, very least. Students did just that last week, when Sen. Ron Wyden, D-OR, held a town hall in Bend.

These students are also helping push conversation about school safety. Since the most recent shootings in Parkland and subsequent threats at local schools, parents have been reaching out to their students' schools to ask about what steps schools are taking to protect students in the event of an active threat. Your student's school may have more safety measures in place than you imagined. Then again, it might not. You'd do well to ask.

There are also conversations arising about how students interact with one another—perhaps one of the most productive things coming out of this protest season. Instead of walking out, some students are choosing to "walk up." What does that mean? It means that students—and the adults around them—are starting to realize that at least some of this nationwide school shooting problem can be attributed to some students getting neither the attention nor the mental health services they badly need.

Fellow students can't do much about the latter—that's for our local, state and federal health authorities to address, and address seriously—but kids can address the issue of attention and misplaced priorities. Too many students are falling through the cracks, disconnected from their peers, and fellow students can stand up in big and small ways to draw attention to that. We support the students who choose to walk out this March 14 and April 20 (the anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School)—but we also support the students who choose to "walk up" to other students to let them know they're noticed, understood and are cared for. And, there's no reason students can't do both.

Moving forward from a school shooting culture isn't going to be completely solved by simple walkouts, nor should they be ignored as unnecessary. The conversation these protests are starting is important.

That same gun safety thread also pointed out that the High Desert Friends of the National Rifle Association will be hosting a sold-out fundraiser Saturday, March 17 at 4pm at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes—just in case the adults have some thoughts on steps the NRA might take to keep our schools safer.


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