Tomorrow, students from several Charlotte-area high schools plan to participate in a national school walkout. It’s designed to commemorate the 17 people who were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month. Students also want to call attention to the issue of school violence and press elected officials for solutions.
17-year-old junior Marion Teshome has been helping coordinate tomorrow’s walkout at Independence High School in Mint Hill.
“There needs to be better regulations on why or how a person could be able to purchase a gun," Teshome said. "Whether it’s changing the age restrictions, background checks or medical checks – just different things that go into it."
18-year old Jackson Lohrer, a senior at Independence, disagrees with raising the age for buying guns.
“We consider 18-year-olds in this society to be adults,” Lohrer said. “I don’t see how we can send them into war with far greater technology than the ones they have here at home, and expect them to come back and not be able to arm themselves on their own home front”
Lohrer and Teshome took a break from classes today to talk to WFAE’s Mark Rumsey about school safety, and how to prevent shootings – including the idea of arming some teachers.
Lohrer: I agree with [arming teachers] and I'd like to emphasize to some teachers that with owning a firearm, comes great responsibility. There also comes great training. My idea would be to have a slight amount of teachers armed in certain areas of school, and [the decision to arm teachers] should be left up to the local level and the school boards. I don't think it should be a federal government mandate or a state government mandate.
Teshome: I totally disagree with [arming teachers]. The reason for a teacher to be armed in the first place is to protect students in case of a school shooting, right? In order for them to do that, they have to have this gun around them at all times. So, we're saying we're going to put it in a safe place so that students won’t get to [the gun]. But, if it's in a safe place, how are you going to get to the gun in times of danger?
Rumsey: Well, let's talk a little bit about tomorrow's march and what you're hoping it will achieve. Marion?
Teshome: I'm hoping that this march tomorrow will give students a voice to be able to speak up for what they believe, and to know that they have the right to protest, stand up and make a change. In order for us to make a change and to have laws put in to help with school safety, we need students to stand up. This walkout tomorrow just shows that we've had enough. How many times do schools needs to be shot up before Congress makes a law that is going to help prevent these shootings? The walk out tomorrow is supposed to give students a voice.
Rumsey: Jackson, you're going to be involved in the walkout as well. What do you hope it will achieve?
Lohrer: I hope that it will achieve a nationwide discussion. Whether it be banning guns or not banning guns, everybody's got a side and I want to hear those sides. It's time that we start sharing our political opinions. We need to start speaking up and talking about this. We need a nationwide discussion as a bipartisan thing, so we can reach a bipartisan decision.
Rumsey: I want to ask you, do you feel safe when you come to school?
Lohrer: I personally do not feel safe at all times. I know that we have a resource officer, but that resource officer can only be in one place at one time. What happens when our resource officer is the first one down? We're not going to have a plan in place on what to do. Are teachers going to have no means to protect us besides using their bodies? I, for one, do not support my teachers giving their lives for me when they have the opportunity to fight back.
Teshome: I agree with some of the things that Jackson said. Personally, I also do not feel safe at the school. Most of the time, the students that are shooting schools are from the schools. This means they have been there for lockdowns and drills. They know what goes on at the school. They know where the security guards are. They know where the teachers are because they are a part of that school. They know exactly which targets to hit. I feel like that puts everybody at risk at the school. So if you made somebody angry one day, they could come back to shoot up the school. You don't know. You're not safe. That puts everybody at risk. So, that makes me feel like I'm always at danger when I'm at the school.
Rumsey: You said that there was a lockdown today here on campus. Tell me about that.
Lohrer: Well, it was between class changes and I would like to congratulate the school for coming up with that idea. That was a very well-executed time to do it.
Rumsey: I'm sorry. This was a drill, right?
Lohrer: Yes, it was a drill. It was a step toward the right position where we need to be in, but I don't think the mindset was where it should have been. We got there and I realized we had no plan. It was just get inside the classroom and close the door.
Teshome: It was very unexpected. I didn't even know it was a drill until it was almost done. The thing that was in my head was, ‘Oh my god, it's happening! What we’ve been talking about is happening!’
Rumsey: Did you feel like you knew what you were supposed to do?
Teshome: Not really. I honestly just stood around for a good minute and then sat down. I didn't even have directions. I knew I was supposed to run into a room. So yes, we ran into a classroom. But afterwards when you got in there it's kind of like, what do you do now? Do you just sit here and wait around for something to happen?
Rumsey: That's Marion Teshome and Jackson Lohrer. Thanks a lot for talking with me. Get back to class.