Walkouts planned at TC

Protest Wednesday in memory of Fla. shooting victims

Three Columbian High School students have made it possible for those in Tiffin to fight for what they believe is right.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday and April 20, students Lauren Buskirk, junior; Kirsten Egbert, sophomore; and Kate Burkes, senior, have organized two school walkouts.

The walkout Wednesday will allow students to gather on the football field for 17 minutes, honoring the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The day is set for a National Walkout and marks one month since the Parkland shooting, Burkes said.

During the walkout, students will read the names of the victims and their biographies.

“We want to promote peace and nonviolence and safety in our country,” Burkes said.

Buskirk said they were nervous at first, but so far about 50 students plan to participate.

“It really didn’t matter to us if there would be just the three of us or 50,”Buskirk said. “We want students to participate and not use it to just get out of class.”

The organizers have posted fliers and announced the walkout through class emails. They also have established a Facebook page, titled Tiffin Walkout.

Burkes said teachers have talked about the Parkland shooting in classes and have said they would do anything to protect the lives of their students.

“Teachers shouldn’t have to say or think that,” she said. “We believe we will see the end of school shootings in our lifetime. I can’t imagine sending my kids to school and thinking about what could happen.”

“Schools are supposed to be a safe place,” Buskirk said. “We like and enjoy school and want to preserve that environment.”

The walkouts were organized to bring awareness to the gun violence issue, Buskirk said.

“We will soon be voters and our voices will mean something,” she said. “Some think that if they are not 18, they can’t do anything, but they can. You can change that.”

Buskirk said they were inspired by seeing the survivors of Parkland protest in Washington, D.C.

“They inspired us and we want to continue to carry that,” she said.

The march Wednesday is not politically affiliated and has the support of the Columbian administration, Burkes said.

Burkes, Buskirk and Egbert say they are not protesting the school during either march, but want to show support in preserving their school environment and making it a better place for students and faculty.

The April 20 walkout is the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado. Fifteen people, including the two gunmen, died in the massacre. This event is not supported by Tiffin City Schools and involves students protesting on the sidewalks around Courthouse Square for safety in schools, peace and nonviolence.

“Since Columbine, there have been 25 school shootings in my lifetime,” Burkes said. “I have never known school without the threat of violence.”

The community is welcome to join students April 20 and Burkes said students from Heidelberg and Tiffin universities plan to attend.

“We want to present nonviolence in a peaceful and positive way,” Buskirk said.

Columbian students who participate in the April 20 walkout might receive a zero for the class and Buskirk said that is the most challenging.

“The voice of change comes with consequences and it is worth it,” Burkes said.

Buskirk said the organizers have met with administrators and, although they shared that the district does not support the walkout, they said they will not stop students from participating.

“Everything that has gone on has opened our eyes to the seriousness of the issues,’ Burkes said. “We genuinely want to fight for what we believe in. We hope our peers see the consequences are worth fighting for.”

Egbert said it is small towns such as Tiffin that make up most of America.

“If these small towns come together, it will be a gigantic force,” she said. “No one thought this would happen to them and the impact has taken a toll.”

Through this, the organizers said they feel closer to fellow students.

“We are fighting for what is good,” Burkes said.

Burkes, Buskirk and Egbert hope to establish a student-led activist group and hope to jump-start that next year. They also hope to inform students about other groups students can join, including Nonviolent Tiffin and others.

“I thought Tiffin was small, but I’ve learned it is much bigger,” Egbert said.