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Greenfield students walk out on National School Walkout day

  • Students walk out of Greenfield High School at 10 AM on Wednesday to protest the 17 students nad faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School walked to the Greenfield Common on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School walked to the Greenfield Common on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School walked to the Greenfield Common on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students from the Four Rivers Charter Public School walked to the Greenfield Common on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Non students who arrived to support the protest are asked to leave school property just before students walk out of Greenfield High School at 10 AM on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Dylan Badillo and Eden Swasey and other students walked out of Greenfield High School at 10 AM on Wednesday to protest the 17 students and faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Students walk out of Greenfield High School at 10 AM on Wednesday to protest the 17 students nad faculty gunned down at Parkland High School and other similar attacks. March 14, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, March 14, 2018

GREENFIELD — High School senior Dylan Badillo, 17, has three younger siblings, one in eighth-grade, one in third-grade and one in pre-K.

“I want to grow up and be able to leave to college knowing my little siblings are safe, and I won’t have to get that phone call, ‘Greenfield High School just got shot up. We need you to come back to see if your siblings are alive,’ ” Badillo said on a day when students across Franklin County and the country commemorated the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

Badillo, like many of his fellow students at Greenfield High School, walked out Tuesday as a part of the 17-minute National School Walkout to honor the 17 lives who died at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago.

Students stepped outside of their high school doors, with snow flurries falling, holding signs advocating stricter gun laws and “#NeverAgain” — for there to never again be another school shooting.

“It’s about time something has happened, because I don’t think we can stand by and watch anymore,” Morghan Blanchard, 17, said. “It only becomes serious when it actually happens to you,” she said, pausing. “And I don’t want to wait for that time.”

Blanchard, like some of her classmates, said the national coverage of the high school students in Parkland has been a “wake up call.”

“It showed us anybody can make change,” Blanchard said. “Anybody can stand up for their cause. They can start a movement. And not many young people recognize that. They think, ‘I’m too young to do anything to make change. I’m just one person.’ Yeah, you are one person, but when you join with your friends, when you make a statement on social media, it becomes much bigger.”

She added it’s been difficult to have these conversations, though. “I can’t think about it too much because, I don’t know, I get so depressed,” she said. “I don’t want to think about it, but I think we need to start to.”

Ethan Miller, 18, standing in a line with other seniors holding handmade signs, said the Parkland students who have spoken out “make me proud to be a part of this generation and part of this movement to create change in this country.”

Tayaba Hamayun, 17, explained why this movement and the need for political action is important: “We come to school and expect to be safe and not to be in an environment where we could possibly get killed.”

Some students interviewed said they feel safe here in Greenfield and safe in Massachusetts, given the relatively strict gun laws in the state, and wanted to walk out and to rally to support the national movement. “We’re going to try to make America a better place and to have stricter gun laws, so that way we don’t have another school shooting, whether it’s in Massachusetts, Florida or in Connecticut ever again,” Maiya Johnston, 17, said.

Other students expressed feeling less safe.

“Many students here are very scared, very terrified a shooting is going to happen in this school,” Jacob Frank, 15, said, adding he felt comforted by the fact that Greenfield, compared to the Parkland school, has a relatively smaller student body, which means, “we have more opportunities to talk with each other and fix problems and communicate” with all of their peers.

“I walked out because I feel it’s important to show unity that we’re going to stand up for what’s right. Even if nothing changes immediately, that change is going to happen,” Willow Scappace, 15, the Student Council’s vice president and a ninth-grader, said. She added that while it’s important to walk out to show how much the students care, it is also important to walk up to students every day of the year, working to prevent anyone from feeling left out during a school day.

Badillo spoke about the lockdown safety procedures they have in school. He talked about practicing having scissors in their hands, carrying a heavy object and ways they’re told to best break a window if they need to exit.

“Those aren’t things we should have to learn how to do,” Badillo said. “We’re high school students who should be focusing on our futures, not if we’re going to have a future. We should be focusing on our grades, not the best way to leave the building in 10 seconds.”

At a recent advisory meeting of some fellow high school juniors, Badillo said they discussed the upcoming walkout, their feelings on it and on a scale of 1-to-10, how likely Greenfield High School was to get “shot up.” The answers ranged from three to six, he said, “But three should be the maximum not the minimum answer people gave.”

Safety protocols

Administrators emphasized the day was about the students and their voices, so Principal Karin Patenaude and others let their students do the talking. Some teachers were outside with their students, and if their whole class walked out, they were instructed to supervise them but not take a political position or encourage or discourage the students.

Greenfield Police and Fire departments were on school grounds to monitor safety. As people started to arrive at the school in anticipation of the 10 a.m. walkout, police asked visitors to move off campus or at least out of the direct area where the students were going to be. About a dozen people rallied in support near the ice rink, including City Council Vice President Penny Ricketts.

Greenfield Public Schools held a day of teaching around the national event, with “a day of kindness” at the elementary schools, “a day of action” at the middle school and “a day of dialogue” at the high school. Students at Greenfield Middle School also walked out.

Four Rivers walkout to the Town Common

About 100 students from the city’s other public secondary school, Four Rivers Public Charter School, left their classes and walked to the Greenfield Town Common.

The group included Anna Goldstein, 16, who recalled the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in 2012. “As an 11-year-old, I remember being terrified that someone would do something so despicable,” she said. “For months after, I would shiver because I was thinking about this tragedy.”

Looking up from her smartphone, from which she was reading a speech to her fellow students, Goldstein said over the years, “I slowly became less and less disgusted by these shooting as they became more and more frequent and normalized in our society. I have a feeling this is true for most of us. We scroll through our newsfeed (on social media) and see yet another school shooting. We don’t give it more than two minutes thought. Clearly, change doesn’t come with time.

“We must take action now,” she said, standing on top of a park bench, calling for stricter gun regulations and more frequent background checks. As Goldstein spoke, cars honked in support, and one woman stopped in her truck at the traffic light on Main Street could be seen applauding the speech.

When the students arrived at the common, loosely escorted by police, they stood facing Main Street, some standing on the sidewalks, with loud voices, running through chants.

Sixteen-year-old Alouette Batteau told the students, “Just because we can’t vote, doesn’t mean we can’t think.” She called for action from Congress to keep students safe, asking to limit accessibility to guns, particularly semi-automatics. She and her fellow classmates who spoke expressed frustration over the lack of action so far from their elected officials.

“We, the students of the United States, call B.S.,” Batteau said. “We no longer will stand by and do nothing. We vote next.”

One of the lead student organizers, Ella Parker, 14, said, “We’re just fed up with the fact that the government has done nothing to fix this. We’re definitely fed up and we’re fighting back at this point.”

Parker and Dylan Dubay, 17, led their classmates back to campus as they chanted down Main Street, “Show me what democracy looks like; this is what democracy looks like.”

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264