Thomas Jefferson

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Students for Safety

Posted 04/10/2023 by Brady Vinlove

TJ students walk out on April 5th to demand stricter gun laws after another shooting occurred at East High School. photo by Mattie Brightwell

Across Denver, students are refusing to stay silent about gun violence.

On Wednesday, March 22, yet another shooting occurred at East High School. Austin Lyle, a student at East High School, shot two administrators at the school during a daily security search as part of a “safety plan” for the student. Afterwards, he fled the school to Park County where his body was found that evening by the authorities. This is the second time during the month of March that a shooting has occurred at the school and a student has died; earlier this month, Luis Garcia was shot and killed in his car on the East Campus. 

These shootings not only affected the victims, but the entire East community as well.  East High School sophomore Julia Knox explained that since the recent shootings, she and other students feel much more tense and on edge at school. Even though school is meant to be a place where students can learn safely, Knox noted that, “It’s difficult to learn when the thought of another shooting is always in the back of your mind.”

Of course, gun violence in schools is not just a problem at East High School; in 2023 alone, there have already been 44 shootings on school grounds, according to the Everytown For Gun Safety, an organization seeking to reduce gun violence through education, protests, and supporting candidates who support stricter gun laws. Students have a place in resolving this issue that impacts them too, with the group Students Demand Action (SDA), which is a part of Everytown For Gun Safety that focuses on school shootings and student action. On April 5th, SDA organized walkouts in which students from more than 300 schools walked out to demand that lawmakers make changes for safer gun laws.  

One such school that participated in the walkout was East High School. Knox explained that at East specifically the walkout was meant to “bring attention to the trauma that students have had to endure.” She hopes that politicians and board members will hear the voices of frustrated students, teachers, and parents who have dealt with the threat of gun violence in schools for years. The point of this walkout and others was to show politicians that this is a serious issue that must be solved. In Knox’s words, “This is not going to die down until students and teachers aren’t dying themselves.”

The TJ community is a part of this movement as well. On April 5th, many TJ students walked out between 3rd and 4th period in solidarity with students at East and to demand safer policies from the school district. Haven Coleman, a junior at TJ who helped organize the walkout, explained that she wants actual change from the school district to make school feel like a safe place, including “updated lock down drills [and] permanent School Resource Officers.” Like students around the country, TJ students are passionate about changing gun regulations to make their education safer. According to Coleman, the walkout involved, “anger and tears with some of the people who got up and spoke out on the topics.”

Anger and passion towards this difficult subject may be common among students, but Knox and Coleman have shown that these feelings can lead to real action. While gun violence is a daunting, nationwide problem, Coleman chooses to focus on the solutions at a local level. “I am not going to focus on the large-scale problem but [instead] the solutions we can implement in our schools to keep our community safer,” she explained. Knox encourages students to share their concerns with local representatives because, “You are who they represent; therefore, your ideas matter.”