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Students in North Conway Calling for Change with High School Walkout

Via Friends of Kennett HS Facebook page

Students across the U.S. and around the Granite State will be walking out of school Wednesday calling for stronger gun control and school safety reform. This follows a national movement led by students of a high school in Parkland, Florida where a mass shooting took place in February.

Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Molly Robert, a senior at Kennett High School in North Conway. 

She’s been part of a student group that plans to walk out of class Wednesday.

(Editor's note: this transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.)

How did plans for this walk come about at your school?

So, they came about rather rapidly to be honest. We've been kind of putting our final plans together over the past few days. When we first heard about the walkout a few weeks ago after the students from Parkland, there were a few different group of students here at Kennett High School who were planning walkouts. So we all kind of came together to plan one.

Now we've talked to some other school systems in New Hampshire, and we've heard from other school systems around the country where this is more about a 17-minute memorial for the 17 students shot at Parkland. I gather that this walk out that you're planning at Kennett is a little different. Is that true?

We are observing a school wide moment of silence led by our principal, Neal Moylan. And then after that moment of silence, we will be walking out. And this is going to be a politically motivated event definitely, because we believe that we want Parkland to be the last time that an atrocity like this ever occurs in our country. And the only way we see to do that is to campaign for effective change within the New Hampshire legislature as well as Congress. So, we will be walking out to campaign for stronger gun control measures at the state and national level.

Now have you talked with school administrators about this? Are they in support of what you're doing?

Yeah, they are very supportive of it actually. They really support our First Amendment right to freedom of speech as students, and they want to make sure that we're safe while walking out tomorrow. So they're giving us a safe platform to do it.

Do you see a majority of students at Kennett that want to be responding to this, that want to have something to say about this?

Yeah, definitely. Our generation, we have grown up in the background of mass shootings. I mean I personally, I can't recall a time where there weren't mass shootings being covered on the news. And I think we're old enough now to realize that you know Congress isn't going to do anything about it. And if they're not going to do anything about it, then we are going to have to try to make change.

So tell me about your message and what you hope to come from that.

We are all very aware of the fact that nothing is going to come out of walking out of class for 17 minutes. It's really what happens after that will count. And I know at Kennett High School we are writing letters to our local legislators in the New Hampshire House down in Concord. We're sending e-mails, making phone calls. We're writing petitions, and we are campaigning in New Hampshire House in the state of New Hampshire to raise the purchasing age for semiautomatic weapons to 21. We are campaigning for gun free school zones in the state as well as universal background checks, specifically background checks for rifles and long guns, because in the state of New Hampshire, we do have background checks for handguns, but just not long guns.

Have you had any response from legislators that you've emailed?

Yeah, so we've had a pretty mixed response. I know myself and another student here at Kennett High School, we are going down to Concord to meet with Gov. Sununu to talk about student safety with other students across the state. So I'm really looking forward to that and hearing what the governor will have to say. I know myself and a few other students up here at Kennett, we emailed our executive legislator Joe Kenney. We have not gotten a response. And the response from our local town [representative] has been pretty mixed.

Have you heard from any peers that say you know I can't quite get behind a demonstration [or] a rally. I'm looking more to just participate in the walk out as a memorial.

There's a pretty big section of students that do want to memorialize the victims, but they do not necessarily support the more political actions that we would like to take. So our principal has compromised if you will, and we are going to observe the moment of silence to memorialize the victims. And then the school is going to give us the platform to protest safely if you will.

So Molly, I assume you're going to be 18 soon.

Yes, in October.

And you'll be registered to vote?

Yes, I'm very excited.

You know, obviously you're very passionate about this issue. How much does this figure into the first time you'll be walking in to cast a vote? And how much do you think it figures into other kids that are about to turn 18?

When I emailed our [representatives] on the local and state level, and I know a lot of other students from New Hampshire who I've spoken to from schools in the southern part of the state, I think the point we want to make very clear to our [representatives] is that you were elected by the people, and you work for the people. And if you don't enact or at least attempt to enact legislation that your constituents want, then that's going to reflect very poorly in November when we all head to the polls.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.

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