Dear Walkout Patriots,
Today was aninteresting day in Greenville County School District to say the least, and I am sure that it was just as interesting at other high schools across the United States. According to reports on WYFF4 earlier today, you, the students of J.L. Mann High School, were the largest group of students to walk out at about 200 students. To those 200 students I have a few short things I would like to share with you.
- You have inspired many and made many people very proud! As a 2007 graduate of J.L. Mann and a social studies teacher for Greenville County it fills me with pride to see you taking matters into your own hands and standing up for yourself. You have truly taken the mascot of our high school from something that is cheered for at a football game, and a living breathing beacon of what you did today! Do not let this moment go to waste. You have the nation’s attention – use it for good. Use it for change. Use it for the hopes we never have to go through another shooting like this again.
- You have outraged many and made many people very upset. This is not my way to try and scare you into submission or silence you. This is me being open and honest with you because after today I feel like you deserve this much. The fact that they are upset and outraged is okay. That is what makes this country great. We are allowed to disagree with one another. They are mad- let them be mad. They are upset- let them be upset. With that said, never let their anger, their voices, or their power silence you, intimidate you, or make you question your beliefs or actions. You are on the right side of history, and history will eventually show that.
- False Support stains both your character & the importance of this movement. Many people have used your support of these walkouts as excuses to hurl insults about your knowledge of what is happening in our country. They say you are using this as an excuse to get out of class. I know you and I am surrounded by students like you on a daily basis. I know these people are wrong. But if there are some of you who indeed only walked out to get out of class, I humbly ask you to rethink your actions. You do nothing besides make yourself look bad, demean the #NeverAgain movement as a whole, and continue to add to the narrative that teenagers and young people today only care about themselves.
- Don’t be mad at the school district for not “supporting” you. While you may feel discouraged that the district did not support your walkout by telling you not to or by not allowing the media to report on what happened, they are only looking out for your best interest in their eyes. On a hot button issue such as this, the district is right to be concerned. My job as a teacher and the district’s job is first and foremost to keep you safe at the present moment. They made the decision they had to make in order to do that.
- Never. Let. This. Moment. Escape. You. I cannot stress this last point enough. You have the momentum of a student led movement behind you. The nation is watching. The world is watching. In your social studies classes you cover many student led movements. Almost every single student led movement in this nation has been successful. Your movement can be successful as well. Follow their steps into the history books., Shout until they hear you. Continue to speak out, speak up, demand to be heard, and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.
I now would love to talk to those of you who did not walk out today. Because your voice is just as important and valid and worth hearing. I have a few things I would like to say to you as well.
- Never be afraid to follow your heart. If you wanted to be a part of the walkout today but chose not to because you were afraid of the consequences or the views of your friends, or your parents told you not to I want you to know that although you did not walk out today, you should never be afraid to follow your heart and do what you think is right. At the end of your life, your regrets should not be long. Always follow what your conscious tells you.
- If you disagree with the walk out movement that is also ok. You should never been forced to be a part of a walk out or protest. Your feelings and opinions are exactly that- yours! You are entitled to them. Although you disagree with the actions of your classmates today, I politely ask you to strike up a respectful dialogue with your friends as to why they felt the need to walk out. Who knows? They might change your mind or you might change theirs.
- Don’t accuse your classmates of dishonesty. It is not fair for your classmates to point fingers, blame, or accusations of not caring at your feet – so it is not fair for you to hurl accusations of hating the second amendment or wanting to take away guns at theirs. The only way we can possibly get to a solution on the issue of gun violence is by respecting our differences and finding compromises.
- You don’t have to walk out, but you do have to participate. I cannot stress this last point enough. The nation is watching. The world is watching. Do not sit back and apathetically let others make the laws and answers for you. Shout until they hear you. Continue to speak out, speak up, demand to be heard, and VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.
Fellow Patriots, continue to represent the alumni of J.L. Mann High School with class, dignity, and distinction. Continue to be the best that Greenville County School District offers to the world. And about all else, continue to be a patriot:
With Great Respect and Admiration,
Class of 2007