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Athens High School students plan Friday protest for gun control

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“Us kids are tired of being afraid in school. We are powerful and intelligent and have a lot to say.”

Some students at Athens High School are joining the national high school protest movement by rallying together to draw attention to gun control laws after the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.

AHS students are planning a peaceful protest from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on March 9 outside the Athens County Courthouse.

Nellie Sullivan, an AHS junior, organized the protest with fellow student Aubree Riley. Sullivan said the protests are a platform for high school students to have their opinions heard since they are unable to vote.

“It’s time to make a difference,” Sullivan said. “Together we’re going to show politicians that our lives are valuable, more valuable than the money they receive from the NRA, more valuable than the guns they are afraid to lose and more valuable than the right that keeps those guns in their hands.

“And we’re not stopping until we get change.”

Riley, an AHS junior who will be graduating early, said her hope for the protest is to keep the gun control conversation alive.

“We’re trying to express that ultimately the safety of students, and other individuals, should be our number one priority,” she said. “We’re calling upon our leaders to enforce restrictions on those wishing to purchase guns so that our safety in our school is not at a major risk.”

Sullivan and Riley said the demonstration on Friday will involve mostly high school students, but some Ohio University organizations will also be in attendance. The demonstration will also feature speakers and musical performances.

“I want to have some publicity from local news and just really get people aware of everything that’s happening and what we want to do,” Sullivan said.

The students encourage people to come and give feedback as well.

“What I really really want is for people to ask us questions,” Sullivan said. “With a lot of protests you just see people brush it off and walk past because they disagree or just don’t care but I think if people ask us questions and hear what we have to say they’ll really start to care about this movement.”

Sullivan and Riley are the authors of a resolution bill that they presented to the Athens County Commissioner on Feb. 28.

Riley said the bill calls for background checks, waiting lists and health records before purchasing a gun. Riley said the bill received a “lovely response” from the county commissioner.

Students are planning another walkout on April 20. Sullivan said the AHS administration is supportive of the students’ decision to protest.

“I’m really happy they’re supporting us instead of threatening suspension because I know other districts around the country are telling their students they can’t participate in marches or protests,” Riley said. “A lot of teachers have told me they are proud.”

Although AHS will not suspend students who leave the building, it will require those that do participate to have written consent from their parents, according to Athens City School District Superintendent Thomas Gibbs.

“The Athens City School District Administration supports the efforts of our students to make peaceful protest for causes in which they have strong beliefs,” Gibbs said. “While we cannot approve these actions as excused absences from school, the administrative team understands the desire of our students to be involved in this very important national conversation.”

AHS Principal David Hanning said he agreed with Gibbs’ statement.

The protest is inspired by the Parkland school shooting in Florida. On Wednesday, Florida passed legislation that would raise the gun age for buying rifles, impose a three-day waiting period and allow the arming of some school personnel.

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