Hanover High students protest gun violence

by Gigi Grigorian | 3/29/18 2:30am

by Amanda Zhou / The Dartmouth

On March 9, more than 250 students and teachers at Hanover High School participated in a walkout to protest gun violence and fight for school safety. The walkout was organized by students in the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School, which killed 17 students and staff members on Feb. 14.

During the Hanover High walkout, participants marched from the high school to the post office in Hanover chanting phrases such as “Never again,” “We want change” and “We are the future.” According to walkout organizer and Hanover High senior Sarah Bozuwa, students at the walkout carried boxes filled with over 1,500 postcards to be sent to New Hampshire legislators.

The postcards, printed with the phrase “#neveragain,” were made available in Hanover High for students to write messages about gun control, violence and safety to their legislators. The postcards were funded by money from the Hanover High student council as well as by individual donations of stamps and other supplies, Bozuwa said.

The Hanover High walkout took place at 2:19p.m., the same time the Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz entered Stoneman Douglass High School two weeks prior with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.

Across the nation, students staged similar school walkouts on March 14, but Hanover High students decided to hold their demonstration earlier because during the week of March 14, the school had scheduled its March Intensive, a week during which students study a chosen topic in-depth, which may take them on trips away from school and Hanover.

Student walkouts also preceded the March for Our Lives demonstrations on March 24, which occurred in Washington D.C. and around the country.

“Since we weren’t going to be able to participate in the national walkout dates, we knew that we couldn’t add to the press coverage in that way,” Bozuwa said. “We wanted to make sure it was still a fruitful demonstration [with the postcards].”

While Hanover High sophomore Lucy Doyle was not at school on the day of the walkout, she wrote postcards to New Hampshire senators and governors that were delivered to the post office during the demonstration.

Doyle said she believes that the majority of students at Hanover High participated in the walkout either by marching in it or by writing postcards.

According to walkout organizer and Hanover High junior Ella Chapman, the school administrators “fully supported” the walkout.

“[School administrators] thought that [the walkout] really lent itself to our school’s philosophy with trying to engage minds, hearts and voices,” Bozuwa said.

Before the walkout, Bozuwa and other student organizers consulted with administrators to learn about the potential repercussions for students participating in the event. According to Bozuwa, the school did not threaten students with any negative consequences for partaking in the walkout.

“We very much foster kids’ ability to speak their minds, to speak out politically and to act out politically,” Hanover High social studies teacher Margaret Caldwell said.

Caldwell also participated in the walkout.

Hanover High social studies teacher Jonathan Gentine said he attributes the high level of participation and enthusiasm for the event to the limited displays of activism he has witnessed during his three-year tenure at Hanover High.

“Hanover High prides itself on student activism, but there really hasn’t been a whole lot of wide-scale activism,” Gentine said. “I think this was a chance for [students] to exercise it a bit on a broader platform.”

Chapman said this is the first large-scale political event that she can recall during her time at Hanover High, but hopes that this walkout will set a precedent for further student activism in the future.“It’s really important that [students] have a role in the direction of this country,” Hanover High senior Simon Herron said. “It’s important that young people get out there and say what we have to say.”

On March 19, Hanover High junior Dakota Hanchett published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “Why I Didn’t Join My School’s Walkout.” In the article he discussed his experience as a gun-owning teenager amidst peers who passionately protest gun ownership and use. He also described his proposition of sensible gun control, which included courses for students to learn about the weapons and safety.

The publication of the op-ed reinforced Caldwell’s assessment that “there is a surprisingly wide spectrum of points of views on [gun control]” at Hanover High.

“Most of us faculty and staff thought he did a really nice job,” Gentine said. “After all, Hanover High School is all about expressing your ideas and being open to sharing them.”

According to Bozuwa, students were “really welcoming” to Hanchett’s op-ed.

“It was really great to have someone voice an opinion that was counter to what the majority of Hanover High feels,” she said. “Sometimes I definitely feel like it’s harder for people who are not as left-swinging to voice their opinions at Hanover High.”

Echoing Bozuwa’s sentiment, Herron emphasized the importance of developing “a working dialogue” between students who participated in the walkout and those who chose not to do so.