A month after the mass shooting at a Parkland high school, students across the nation planned to walk out of class in solidarity with victims and survivors, but at one Lee County school, students were unsure whether or not they could join the movement.
The School District of Lee County issued a statement last Friday telling students and staff that, while their individual viewpoints and First Amendment rights were respected by the district, they were being asked to “maintain the procedures for a normal operating day to ensure that teaching and learning continues.”
For parents like Rebecca Modys, the statement felt out of touch.
“They’re not pulling a stunt. They’re not trying to get out of school for a few minutes. They’re not disregarding authority," Modys said. "They’re trying to make a change that adults have been unable to make, and their voice is important because they’re the ones that have to walk in that high school.”
Modys’ daughter, Libby Jones, is a freshman at Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers. She walked out of class last month – a week after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – along with many of her classmates.
She planned to join this national movement as well but didn’t know if she’d be able to.
“We were informed through an announcement over the live speakers by the principal that we would be given a referral if we left school property," Libby said.
So, the plans were scrapped to sit silently outside the front gates for 17 minutes – a minute for each victim of the Valentine’s Day massacre.
Staff members stood at each gate of the conjoined campus of Cypress Lake High School and Middle School, but the students gathered still – on campus – at the bus loop between both schools. The protest was silent, but the sentiment was not.
“We are scared to be in school, and we are scared to go see a movie. And, we’re scared to go to the grocery store, and we’re scared to go to the car wash," Libby said. "And, that’s not how society should be. That’s not how our daily life in public should be.”
Libby says the harsh reality is not a new one for this generation, but the reaction is.
“We don’t just sit back and be ignorant, and let these things kind of kind of go over our heads, like, often times, a lot of adults try to do – like, let these things kind of go over our heads and say it’s something we can’t understand," she said.
Libby’s mom credits the newfound activism of her daughter – and her daughter’s generation – to the power of social media.
“They’re seeing other kids become active in a positive, nonviolent way," Modys said. "They’re seeing them refuse to back down, and they feel their own power and want to be a part of it.”
After school, Libby headed straight to social media – to connect with a nation of likeminded students, who walked out with her a month to the day after the shooting in Parkland.
“I’m very proud of my generation and my classmates and my peers around the country for taking action and not being silent just because we can’t vote," Libby said.
Another demonstration, called March For Our Lives, is being organized by Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students to take place in Washington, D.C. on March 24 with a Southwest Florida march mirroring the national movement that same day in Fort Myers.