by Barrett Seaman –
Joining millions of their peers around the country one month to the day after the slaughter of 17 students at Parkland, Florida’s Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, middle and high school students in Irvington, Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow left their classrooms at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning for a symbolic 17 minutes of protest.
The regional demonstrations were orderly and largely inconspicuous as many districts barred outsiders from entering school property and, in some cases, limited the demonstrations to within the walls of their school buildings. Administrators at both Sleepy Hollow and Irvington High Schools set out parameters designed to neither encourage nor discourage students from participating. Teachers were instructed to stay in their classrooms and follow lesson plans. Irvington Middle School Principal David Sottile wrote parents in advance of the scheduled event that “the school and the District do not engage in support for any specific political message and, therefore, are not taking a position regarding students’ plans for the day or any messages that will be expressed.”
That said, the school required any students participating in the walkout to write “either a personal letter of advocacy to an elected official (local or national) or a personal letter of support to one or more members of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school community.” Sleepy Hollow High administrators took a similar position.
Rivertowns letter captures national sentiment
Three Irvington students, writing on behalf of all their schoolmates, wrote a lengthy letter to the area’s congressional representative, Nita Lowey, citing not only the most recent killings in Florida but also all the other carnage caused by guns on school and college campuses going back two decades, noting “Every single one of these guns was purchased legally.”
“We are tired of watching our representatives deflecting attempts at meaningful gun reform with ‘thoughts and prayers,’” the letter read in part. Crafted largely by students Melanie Geller, Annie Horowitz and Braden Donoian, the letter went on: “We are frustrated by their failure to invoke any reasonable changes to our gun laws, and we are enraged by their refusal to hear our voices crying out for change, and their dismissal on the basis of our age.”
Reflecting a newly-aroused sense of political power, the Irvington letter fired its own warning shot across the bow of the U.S. Congress: “We would like to remind you that we are the future voters of America. Candidates are accustomed to people voting on the basis of NRA support, but from now on, we can assure you of a new voting bloc against those who put the agenda of a gun lobby before our rights and freedoms.”
The letter proved compelling enough to have Sleepy Hollow High School students sign onto it, making it a unified statement from young people in three contiguous villages.