Deep snowfall has forced SouthCoast students to postpone student-led memorials marking the one-month anniversary Wednesday of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, but students say that when the snow clears, they’ll be ready.
"There needs to be a change," said Old Rochester Regional High School senior Madeline Scheub, who, with three other girls, planned an event to take place on a field outside the school.
They intend to invite students outside at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — and to read the names of the dead and observe a moment of silence for each, she said. No new date has been set.
Local events were scheduled for the same day as the National School Walkout, a nationwide protest originated by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. SouthCoast students said their events were designed to be apolitical and not necessarily call for more gun control, arming teachers, or other specific changes under public discussion.
Delaney Wilkinson, a senior at Westport Junior / Senior High School, said she and a friend planned an observance to show solidarity with the students of Parkland, honor those who were killed, and bring awareness to the issue. Their event has been postponed until April.
Wilkinson said they have the blessing of the school administration, provided they follow some rules. They were asked to make the event apolitical, to hold it behind the school for their own safety, and not to publicize the exact date and time, she said. But she feels supported by school staff.
“I think that they’re really respecting our rights as citizens to protest and have freedom of speech,” she said.
Police are expected to be present at both schools, the girls said.
Seventeen bells will ring over the Westport High intercom as a signal to go outside. The observance will include speeches, singing, reading of names, and a moment of silence. Organizers have encouraged students and teachers to make signs, Wilkinson said.
School-sanctioned events are also planned for New Bedford High School and the city's middle schools, on dates to be rescheduled. At New Bedford High, students met with administrators to make suggestions about what to do.
"It’s their voice and their opportunity,” Headmaster Bernadette Coelho said in an interview.
Members of New Bedford's Student Advisory Council will read the names of the 17 dead over the public address system and ask for a moment of silence. Students will have a chance to write messages to be bound into a book and sent to Parkland. Then, students will go outside and form the number 17 on one of the athletic fields, and the image will be photographed to be included with the book.
At the New Bedford middle schools, students will be invited to write messages that focus on acts of kindness, and they will posted in the foyers, according to a press release from the district.