West High School Student Voice Out
Updated: Oct 7, 2020
In recent times, school shootings have become an increasing reality across the nation, with the latest being the mass shooting in a public high school of Parkland, Florida; resulting in 17 victims. Even across the nation, in Southern California, the rigors of this domestic attack are felt. Among dozens of other schools, West Torrance High School of Torrance California, has found a constructive way of responding to the national threat of mass school shootings. Walk-outs, sit-downs and lie-downs have taken place in schools across the country in mourning of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. On March 14, the one month anniversary of the Parkland attack, West Torrance High School organized a time in its schedule to set up several activities, resembling the walkouts of other schools. In order to keep students and staff safe, three zones were set up on campus, presenting five different activities, including group prayer therapy, open letter writing, speech-making, poster-making and tribune-banner-making.
Singularly established as a campus-wide “Voice-out”, these activities were conceived to provide teachers as well as students with a natural, safe, and positive way of coping with the issue, sharing similar sentiments, and reaching out to victims by way of letters, posters and speeches. Although primarily considered by the West High principal- Ms. Kara Heinrich- directly after the shooting, the event gained momentum when students and teachers began to get involved and started proposing ideas. True to her self-proclaimed mother-like duties and sentiments toward her students, Ms. Heinrich mediated between letting students speak their minds, and keeping everyone safe, stating that ,“sometimes, when you know you are going to have an event, and it is advertised off campus, you get some people that don’t always think straight...I didn’t want anyone becoming a target.” In acknowledgement of many students’ wishes to not participate in the “voice-out”, they were also given the chance to attend a regular tutorial enrichment session. Regardless, the demonstration appeared to have a profound effect on the school population, raising awareness for the Parkland and other such incidents, because as Ms. Heinrich put it, “there is always room for improvement.”
One of the five school-wide activities students were offered to take part in was listening to and presenting speeches. Aiming to allow students to express their thoughts and ideas to other students and teachers, this section of the voice-out was one of the most populated ones, filled with open minds and real opinions. While making their speeches, many students decided to take a stand for gun control in the U.S. One particular student, Brandon Harrison, while being a supporter of second amendment rights, proposed that gun reform should be considered and established in the United States, mirroring the positive effect that firearm control has had in Japan. Several students, like Dahlia Pacheco also made points on the lines of wanting to protect their families and their fellow classmates, proclaiming that, “Kids shouldn’t be afraid to go to school. They should have the freedom to an education free of fear and anxiety.”
(Originally written by Aleeza Adnan, Niccolo Esquivelzeta Sohn, Adam Gibson, and Krischan Jung. Scribed by Muniza Ahmed and Luke Kim.)