Connecticut Students Organize Local Parkland Discussions

Middle school students in Middletown took the helm on leading a school-wide assembly all aimed at discussing school safety.

Morghan James, an eighth-grader at Woodrow Wilson Elementary, organized a forum that included Middletown’s mayor, police chief, a state representative, and system administrators.

“I want to see changes to everything like gun laws. I want to see better security in school and just make sure everyone is safer and feels safe. Because I know half of the kids don’t feel safe," she said.

Woodrow Wilson’s Principal Cheryl Gonzalez said the entire event, which spanned two, one hour long events, was entirely the brainchild of students. They decided the format and who would be invited. She said the students put the adults to work.

“They quite frankly said, ‘we’re scared. We’re scared and we don’t know what to do about it.’ And we need to do something so with the conversations with students, this is how this came about,” said Gonzalez.

In Farmington, the high school held an assembly rather than a walkout. Ashley Dummitt, a supporter of gun rights, found herself in the extreme minority among her peers. She says she felt obligated to provide a unifying voice instead of criticizing her friends and classmates over their stances aimed at changing gun laws.

Dummitt, who made a speech during the assembly, said she wants more people to be involved in conversations about school safety.

“It needs to happen not just in my school but in Connecticut and all of the nation in general because right now we’re being plagued by polarization and that does need to be able to be stopped if we want to get anywhere in protecting our students,” she said.

The protests and walkout have spread quickly since the Parkland shooting. Students have connected with their counterparts in schools around the country.

Adam Chiara, an Assistant Communications Professor at the University of Hartford, says students are using social media in organized ways never seen before.

“If you look at the way students are using it in Parkland, they talk the language of social media,” Chiara said. “They use memes, they use jokes, they use videos. That’s the culture of social media, so they’re doing it really well, it’s authentic. They’re using social media in the way that it was meant to be made.”

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