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Parkland
A T-shirt and flyer hang from a tree near the St. James Episcopal Church memorial to victims of school shootings, including the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
PHOTO BY ADAM ANIK

By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

The national discussion surrounding the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida is also taking place in Montclair.

One of the most-talked about issues is whether Montclair’s schools could follow the lead of other schools around the country and stage a student walkout.

In the wake of the shooting, groups have called for walkouts to call attention to gun violence in schools and to urge legislators to take action.

The Women’s March EMPOWER group is organizing a National School Walkout, to be held on March 14. There is also a movement to hold a walkout on April 20, which is the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine shooting.

The March For Our Lives rally will take place in several different cities and communities across the country on March 24.
In Montclair, several parents and students have voiced support for a walkout on social media.

However, the Montclair school district is wary of the idea. On Thursday, Feb. 22, Interim Superintendent Barbara Pinsak sent an email to parents.

“While I applaud and support student-led advocacy and feel tremendous distress about the lives lost in Parkland, I am concerned about two main issues for Montclair: Since this walkout is date and time-specific, how will we keep staff and students as safe as when they are in our buildings? How are we supporting and respectfully acknowledging student and staff beliefs that are different from those of this group?” it read.

The district would sent out another email with more details on the district’s position and procedures, she added.

“It seemed kind of wishy-washy, to say the least,” Parent Gina Shaw said during a phone interview on Friday, Feb. 23. She said that the schools should be supportive of students who wanted to do a walkout. “I know there’s some dispute or disagreement over the elementary schools getting involved.”

Shaw said that being able to talk about the issue in schools, and to open up the possibility of a walkout, helped remind children that they are not too young to be involved in social change.

Another ongoing topic of discussion is whether teachers should be encouraged to carry guns.

“I mean, that’s stupid,” Shaw’s daughter Annika, a sixth-grader at Glenfield, said. “School’s supposed to be safe. You don’t want to bring guns into school.”

Shaw said that most teachers she had spoken to were against the idea of arming school staff.

Annika said that when she was in first grade, and the Sandy Hook shooting occurred, her parents didn’t discuss it with her. But now, she said, she and her peers are at the age where they have some understanding of what’s going on.

“So right now we have to say something, because it’s going to get worse,” Annika said.

At the Feb. 20 BOE meeting, parent Rebecca Burch said that she was concerned about the prospect of elementary school children taking part in a walkout.

During a follow-up phone interview, Burch said that she fully supports gun control, and that older children had the right to participate in a walkout if they wished.

“My real issue is just, I didn’t want the emotional well-being of our children to get lost in the issue,” she said.

At St. James Episcopal Church on Valley Road, the church set up a T-shirt memorial on the lawn.

The church held a Service of Lamentation in memory of the Parkland victims on the Sunday following the shooting, with the service concluding outside next to the memorial.

“It’s been really very touching, very moving,” said Rev. Melissa Hall during a phone interview on Friday.

The memorial has a notebook set up nearby where visitors can write down their thoughts and reflections.

The memorial started out with 17 T-shirts, one for each of the Parkland victims. T-shirts will be added representing the victims of school shootings from prior years. There will be one T-shirt per shooting, but in the case of Sandy Hook, there will be a child-sized T-shirt for each one of the victims.

Diamond Cycle announced via its Facebook page on Friday that it would no longer carry products from brands affiliated with Vista Outdoor, citing Vista’s status as an ammunition manufacturer and an NRA supporter.

Numerous companies have announced that they are ending programs or other connections with the NRA in the wake of the shooting.

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