Lane Murdock

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Students partaking in the National School Walkout in Washington DC on April 20. Image attributed to: SLOWKING

Lane Murdock is a 16-year-old activist and co-founder of the National School Walkout.[1] The walkout was organised to protest against the current gun laws set in the United States of America. It happened as a result of the 17 lives lost (14 students and 3 members of staff) in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting which occurred in Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 and thus was also held to honour those who were killed during the incident.[2] The movement garnered support nationally and internationally, as students from different schools participated to encourage a move towards stricter gun laws in the United States.[3]

Early life and education[edit]

Lane Murdock was born in 2002 in Texas, where her mother is originally from. When she was four years old she moved to Ridgefield, Connecticut. [2] She is currently a student at Ridgefield High School, where she regularly gives speeches. The school is a 20-minute drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of the 2012 massacre in which 20 children and 6 staff members died when she was in year 5 (10 years old).[4]

National School Walkout[edit]

An aerial view of Scotts Ridge Middle School (closer) and Ridgefield High School (farther), which share the same campus. Lane Murdock attends Ridgefield High School.

After the shooting in Parkland, Murdock placed a petition to change.org asking people to pledge in support of fighting against the lack of responses that follow school shootings in America, by participating in a walkout. The petition has accumulated over 270,000 signatures.[1]

Hours after the mass shooting had taken place at Marjory Stone Douglas High school, Murdock utilised the activist website change.org to create a petition titled National High School Walk-Out for Anti Gun Violence.[1] The petition garnered over 100,000 signatures ranging from students to teachers and other school staff members pledging to walk out of school on April 20 within the first week and received signatures from a range of people.[5][6] Murdock enlisted the help of two fellow students—Paul Kim and Grant Yaun—who then set about organising their nationwide walk-out with Indivisible, a movement of volunteer-led local groups that assist other activists by providing resources, advice and coordination needed to organise nation wide walkouts[7][2]

The NationalSchoolWalkout Twitter accumulated more than 100,000 followers in five days.[8] NSW shared flyers on the walkout’s Facebook page, encouraging students to display them at their schools, and designed merchandise on cottonbureau.com. This was created for students to wear during the April 20th walkout; NSW stated that the earnings from these would be given to the families of those who died during the Parkland shooting.[8]

Students dressed in orange, participating in the April 20 National School Walkout in Washington DC, Lafayette Park. Image attributed to SLOWKING

National School Walkout scheduled the nation wide walkout to take place on April 20, as it marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High school shooting.[1] Lane stated that the reason she decided to hold the walkout on the anniversary of Columbine, was because little had been done to resolve the issue of gun violence, since then.[7]

It was also arranged that all participants agree to wear orange during the walkout as it is the colour hunters wear to enhance safe hunting and means ‘Don’t shoot’; allowing hunters to distinguish fellow hunters from animals.[8] The walkout also took place at 10 o’clock in the morning in each local time zone. When students headed outside, they participated in 13 seconds of silence to honour the 13 people killed at Columbine High School.[1] The remainder of the walkout varied across schools, as it was up to each school to decide on how they wanted to organise the day

The National School Walkout website also consisted of a ‘Walkout Planning Guide’ which provided a model of a walkout for schools to follow, safety and legal details schools should be aware of as well as inclusivity of the walkout.[1] Many walkouts consisted of the incorporation of open mics, to guest speakers and even voter registration sections; where senior students that were eligible, registered to vote.[1] Some students also wrote letters to students from other school communities that have been impacted by school shootings,[4] whereas others decided to set booths where students could call their representatives to pressure lawmakers over gun reform.

The April 20 walkout organized by Murdock was set to last until the end of the school day, because the issue is one that needed to be ‘addressed [for] longer than 17 minutes’.[4] This was said in reference to the March 14 walkout which lasted for 17 minutes to mark the 17 lives lost at the Marjory Stone High School shooting, with students returning to their classrooms soon after.[6]

Response[edit]

Murdock’s plan to hold a school walkout met a lot of criticism from various groups of people, ranging from students and staff from Columbine High school to educators of various schools and even governments of education from different states across the country. The backlash was due to uncertainty about the purpose of the walkout and also its clash with the occurrence of standardised tests.[9] The Telegraph (Lang, 2018) stated that students also experienced 'protest fatigue', which reasoned why the number of participants in #NationalSchoolWalkout was less than the number of people who took part in the March 14 walkout and the ‘March for Our Lives’ rallies organised by the students from Parkland.

National School Walkout was set to occur on the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, however faced criticism from students and members of staff from the high school. It was custom for school to be cancelled on April 24 for Columbine High School students to honour those who passed during the shooting in 1999, with students partaking in community service. Despite the news of the walkout, many members from the school community expressed their dissatisfaction of the walkout being held on that day and made it clear that they would not be joining.[10] The principal from Columbine High School, Scott Christy, wrote a letter addressed to students from different high schools near the area; prompting them to partake in community service rather than participating in a walkout. The letter read, "Please consider planning service projects, an activity that will somehow build up your school . . . as opposed to a walkout.” [10]

A student participating in the March 14, National School Walkout in Washington DC. Image attributed to Lorie Shaull

Many organisers of their own school walkouts were also working to increase the number of young Americans voting, by encouraging them to register to vote so that they may elect candidates that support gun control.[6] This was shown in some of the school walkouts, such as students in Massachusetts that held booths for voter registration during the walkouts. Moreover, the New York City Department of Education stated that students who were absent from school due to the walkout would be marked with an unexcused absence and for others, they would be facing consequences.[2] Other schools across the country also placed restrictions on student’s ability to participate. For example, some schools in Houston allowed students to express their views but asked them not to leave campus or return to class late.[2] This led to students holding alternative events after school. However, other schools compromised with students holding demonstrations before, or after school or permitting them to attend walkouts, if they had a parental slip. Much of the resistance faced from schools across the nation occurred considering the fact that the walkout was planned during the administration of national standardised tests.[10] This had many schools worried that students leaving during the day could disrupt the security of the exams.

This is David Hogg giving a speech at the March For Our Lives rally. He among others from Parkland, showed support of Lane Murdock's movement. Author: VOA

Many of the Parkland Students who organised previous movements, showed support for Murdock and her nationwide walkout, with they themselves organising their own walkout within their community. The morning of the nationwide walkout, news broke that one person was injured in a shooting at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida.[9] This led to students cancelling their planned walkouts, but also energised others including David Hogg from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who expressed in a video posted on his social media, that the event reiterated the necessity of the walkout.[11]

American students at the tertiary level also took part in demonstrations to show their support for the National School Walkout. Harvard Students also partook in the walkout, placing particular emphasis on emphasising the rights of minority groups.[12] They achieved this by ensuring that their guest speakers were women, people of colour and also those subject to discrimination because of their religion. American students at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England also participated in walkouts to show support to students back in the United States and call for sensible gun reform.

Black Lives Matter is an example of a movement that protests against violence and racism towards Black People. It transpired after the acquittal of George Zimmerman who shot an African-American teenager. Image attribution to Black Lives Matter organisation

Continued Advocacy[edit]

Murdock's movement has continued to develop since the walkout, with 150 local organisations created as part of the movement of the nationwide walkout. These local groups are continuing the movement and pursuing the goals of the walkout at a local level. Students who organised walkouts in their local areas, transitioned these collectives into a ‘school type club’ organisation (not necessarily as part of the school’s extracurricular activities).[4] This is so that these smaller groups can meet regularly to encourage young Americans who are of age to register to vote, and to also increase the number of young students who are interested in politics.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Gold, Michael (April 19, 2018). "What to Expect From the National School Walkout for Gun Safety". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 October 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e Binkley, Collin (21 April 2018). "U.S. students stage walkout protests". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
  3. ^ Sanchez, Ray (21 April 2018). "This is the 16-year-old behind the National School Walkout". CNN. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  4. ^ a b c d Shapiro, E (2018-04-20). "National School Walkout: Everything to know about the upcoming event". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  5. ^ O'Connor, Lydia (2018-02-22). "Here Are The Biggest Nationwide Gun Control Protests Planned". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  6. ^ a b c Gray, S (2018). "Everything You Need to Know About The April 20 National School Walkout". Time.
  7. ^ a b Boboltz, Sara (2018-03-04). "This Connecticut High School Student Is Leading A National Anti-Gun Walkout". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  8. ^ a b c Ormseth, Matthew. "15-Year-Old From Ridgefield Behind Nationwide Walkout Protesting Gun Violence In Schools". courant.com. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  9. ^ a b "Student activists, protesting gun violence, time latest walkout to Columbine anniversary". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  10. ^ a b c Truong, Debbie (19 April 2018). "Walkout planned on columbine anniversary". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Reuters, AP (2018-04-21). "Thousands of US students walk out in protest of gun violence on 19th anniversary of Columbine". ABC News. Retrieved 2018-10-15.
  12. ^ Takahama, Elise (April 20, 2018). "Harvard students rally against gun violence". The Boston Globe.