Students at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo were part of a nationwide demonstration for school safety Wednesday.
The Dutch Fork student council, working with school administrators, organized Project 17 in honor of the 17 people killed in a deadly shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
“You could take time from 10:00 to 10:17 to contact your elected officials,” Student Body Vice President Emily O’Shields said. “That could be through email, over a text, a phone call or even over Twitter. We also did have a walkout. We had about 500 students participate in that with some speeches, some chanting. It was amazing to see.”
Although walkout demonstrations were organized nationwide, officials at Lexington-Richland County School District Five encouraged students to find other ways to demonstrate, citing safety concerns. At Dutch Fork, students gathered at the common area near the cafeteria where they chanted “Stop the violence save our kids!”
“This movement that the Florida students have started, the Never Again movement, has just inspired everyone that our generation can be this generation of change,” O’Shields said. “I think it’s very scary that we have to protest this and chant ‘save our kids’ when we should be safe in a school environment.”
Student Body President Stephen Wise said, since the February 14 shooting, he and his fellow students have noticed security issues they think should he be changed at school. “Just looking at things you didn’t notice before, such as doors being unlocked or possible entryways or the lack of a code if there was a fire drill pulled,” he said.
Among the suggestions students have made for school security: more school resource officers, locked outside doors at all times and a buzzer system at the front office door. School principal Dr. Gerald Gary hosted a town hall meeting after the Florida shooting to gather ideas from students.
Wise had a message for elected officials:
“As students we challenge them that they are leaders that we should be looking up to and they should be making decisions that we should be proud of,” he said. “Otherwise we’re their constituents in 2020 and so we’re going to be voting as well. Otherwise we will put people in power that can make those decisions and make change happen.”