Organizing major protests is nothing new for Berkeley High School students.
They led a peaceful walkout during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 and marched onto the UC Berkeley campus after racist materials showed up on a library computer in 2015. The day after the 2016 election, Berkeley high schoolers, again, flooded UC Berkeley to protest Donald Trump’s victory.
So watching these students walk out of class Wednesday as part of a nationwide movement against gun violence after last month’s high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, was no surprise — but that doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Berkeley residents learned long ago not to underestimate the power of young activists. It was heartening to see that Berkeley High students had unwavering support from their teachers to organize — the school faculty endorsed the protest and assured students that no one would be suspended for participating.
Unfortunately, not all high school staffers are this supportive of student protests.
Some schools across the country encouraged students to “walk up” instead of walk out: Teachers asked students to just “be nice to each other” to create a better environment. To those teachers: Stop patronizing and belittling your students. They’re clearly capable of organizing protests to demand national reforms.
Staff members at Mount Diablo High School in Concord even locked the main gates around the school in an attempt to prevent students from walking out. Students are forced to stand up for their own safety because lawmakers won’t, and now adults are trying to stifle them from doing so? Enough is enough.
High school staff members should be lifting students up, not tearing them down. Bay Area high schools need to learn from Berkeley High School faculty members and support their students in demanding change.
Already, many California lawmakers have stood in solidarity with high schoolers’ calls for change. State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, tweeted her support for creating stricter gun control laws. And U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, tweeted a thread with statements of support for various East Bay students who protested Wednesday, including those from UC Berkeley, Alameda and Oakland.
“I stand with all the students who are walking out of their classrooms this morning to demand action on gun violence,” Lee tweeted Wednesday. “#EnoughIsEnough — it’s time to address this epidemic. #NationalWalkoutDay.”
If lawmakers who barely know these students can support them, why can’t their parents and their teachers? And if so many lawmakers support the message and tactics of the students, why is nothing changing at a federal level?
Since the Columbine shooting in 1999, protests in favor of sensible gun reform have repeatedly picked up steam with little results from elected government officials. But now it’s the high schoolers leading the charge, and these irresponsible and idiotic adults ought to listen.
Negligent lawmakers and political leaders are putting themselves above the safety of children, and it’s absurd that our students are forced to act like the real adults in the room. Time to grow up and take action.
Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.