Students Planning Walkouts and Becoming Activists

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After 17 people were gunned down in a Florida high school, the national conversation on gun violence has made its way to Naperville.

And the common message is a call for action.

“Schools cannot solve this problem alone,” said District 204 Superintendent Karen Sullivan. “We need our leaders to listen, to use some common sense, and to get to work to deal with what’s become all too commonplace in our society.”

Students are joining the cause, pushing for stricter gun control through organized walkouts.

Neuqua Valley students held one on February 21, over 600 Naperville Central students are currently planning one through group chat, and a smaller group of Naperville North teens have taken on the same task.

“It was like the breaking point – everyone across the nation is saying this is a problem that has been going on for a long time and hasn’t been addressed properly,” said Avery Maloto, a student planning to participate in the Naperville North walkout.

Naperville Central students are planning their walkout for April 20, and it will last all day. Starting at 10 a.m. students will leave their classrooms to stand along Aurora Avenue, West Street, and on top of Rotary Hill.

“We want this to be heard as something from the students as something that we want to do, not just something from the administration. This is coming from our perspective,” said Preston Chao, Naperville North High School’s student ambassador to the District 203 School Board.

In the meantime, both school districts say they are keeping schools as safe as possible with staff training, student drills, and a regular review of safety procedures.

An extra layer of security is the school resource officer program – which places an officer in every middle and high school in both 203 and 204.

Besides keeping the buildings secure – they investigate any potential threats to the students.

“A lot of our tips come from students. Believe it or not, students feel really comfortable going to their school resource officer and providing them information. They’re good about seeing something threatening in nature on social media and bringing to the attention of their officers right away,” said Tim Erdman, supervisor of the Naperville Police Department’s School Resource Officer Unit.

That skill in social media has made it the tool of choice for activist students working to unify a movement.

“Maybe our voices as adults alone couldn’t get through, but maybe our voices altogether will be able to get through and make a very positive change,” said District 203 Board Member Kristine Gericke.

Naperville News 17’s Blane Erwin reports.