Elementary school students in Brattleboro and Dummerston participate in National School Walkout Day
BRATTLEBORO and DUMMERSTON — In a day and age when schoolchildren are all too familiar with active-shooter and shelter-in-place drills, schoolchildren want adults to know that enough is enough.
"The politicians dissing the kids should be ashamed," said Emilio Ogden, an eighth-grader at Dummerston School. "They are not brave enough to stand up and do what's best for the country."
For students like Ogden and his friends, the fact that the United States has the most guns per capita and the most mass shootings in the world, is emblematic of a gun culture that needs to be changed.
"We are for common-sense gun control," said Ogden, who believes "guns designed to kill humans" should be banned.
Sylvie Normandeau, also an eighth-grader, agreed.
"Military-grade weapons ... we don't need those and they end up killing children," she said.
Kiarra McNary said she and her classmates have been inspired by the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who have taken to the streets and the airwaves to demand legislators do something about guns and gun violence.
"Students are standing up," said McNary. "Enough is enough."
Ogden, Normandeau and McNary said not all the students at Dummerston School agree with the walkout or the demand for more gun control, but they are encouraged that students and their families are even discussing it.
"Everyone in class is talking about it," said Ogden. "It's been mostly positive, but some students think we are anti-gun and the walkout is divisive."
Gail Gullotti, whose grandchildren attend Dummerston School, said she appreciates Dummerston School administrators for allowing the students to participate. For the children to walk out, they needed written permission from their parents, noted Gullotti.
"Dummerston School is teaching the children values and respect," she said.
PJ Hand, whose daughter also participated, agreed.
"This region is unlike any other in the way it teaches civics," he said, though he added, "We could do more."
Hand also acknowledged that the students understand it's more than about demanding gun control legislation; it's also about the students talking to their peers and reaching out to those who might be struggling in school.
"My daughter has a tendency on her own to seek out those who need attention and a little extra love," said Hand.
"We want our entire community to be safe," said Rebecca Waxman, who was there to support her child's participation in the walkout.
At Oak Grove Elementary in Brattleboro, eight students and nine parents gathered by the flagpole.
Parents were the primary organizers of the gathering. As at Dummerston School, parents were told they could sign their children out so they could participate in the gathering without any consequences. The gathering, however, wasn't a school-sanctioned event. Inside the school, students were busy with the school musical.
Outside they gathered close to their parents. Everyone was bundled up. Students and children alike held signs that read, "Arms are for hugs," and "Remember the kids at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."
Corey DiMario, an Oak Grove father, started the group up in song. They sang lyrics such as "fear has no place" and "we shall live in peace," all verses ended in a resounding "we shall overcome someday."
Many parents said they were using the gathering as a teaching opportunity to talk about gun violence with their elementary school students.
"Everybody's scared with the news cycle," Lissa Schneckenburger, Dimario's partner, said. She wanted to show her 8-year-old son how other students were organizing across the country. She doesn't think he really understands gun violence in the same way an adult would. "He understands it at his own developmental level," she said.
DiMario agreed. "But it's important to start these conversations while they're young," he said. "They're the ones who are going to make a change and stop these things from happening when they're older."
The main take away they hope he gets from the gathering is, "even kids can make a difference and get the attention of people in power," Schneckenburger said.
Other parents were there because their children had asked them to be. Fiona Soto, who's 10 years old, talks about gun violence with one of her friends at school. Though her mom, Kimberly Soto, said her daughter only follows the news a little bit, she's been following it more since the election.
"She was very moved to hear that there were kids speaking up in Florida," Soto said.
This isn't the first time Fiona's been a part of activist efforts. She went with her mom to the Women's March and talks with her a lot about police violence, guns and military issues.
Fiona said her biggest concern was that a shooting could happen at Oak Grove. She said she wasn't really sure how she felt when she saw the Parkland children organizing against gun violence.
"I just knew I had to do something," she said.
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