When 17 students and faculty were killed during a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, Feb. 14, Federal Way mom Lorraine Wilson said she didn’t try to shield the news from her 12-year-old daughter, Natalie.
Not only were all of Natalie’s classmates at Federal Way Public Academy talking about it anyway, Wilson said following the news is very important in her home, and she and her husband, Kenneth, encourage Natalie to learn what is taking place in her community and the rest of the world so she can become engaged and aware.
To mitigate the sadness they felt and any of Natalie’s fears, they also spent a great deal of time reading about the nation-wide conversation and call for action that came after the shooting, Lorraine Wilson said.
And when they learned about National School Walkout Day March 14 and that students planned on participating at their schools throughout the country, Lorraine Wilson said she wasn’t entirely surprised Natalie proposed organizing one at FWPA.
“I thought about what it would be like to come to school and have one of my friends die,” Natalie Wilson said after school Wednesday. “I just thought I couldn’t let that happen to my friends at my school.”
First, however, Natalie approached her school’s principal to ask permission. Federal Way Public Schools administration had already determined student-led walkouts would be permitted in the district as long as parents excused their children’s absence, and after Natalie broached the subject at FWPA, a school-wide appropriations meeting was held to determine families’ interest.
While 25 people came to the introductory meeting, Natalie Wilson said 93 out of the school’s approximately 300 students participated in the walkout Wednesday morning.
“I was really, really happy about that,” Natalie Wilson said. “It’s amazing so many people want to help and make a difference in our schools.”
She said she would like lawmakers to listen to what she and others are saying and take more action to protect people in schools.
“And rapid-fire assault weapons should not be easy to get to, especially by people under 21,” Natalie Wilson said.
Lorraine Wilson said she supported her daughter’s efforts entirely and foray into civic engagement and willingly excused Natalie’s absence. She said she thought the walkout would be a great experience for her daughter, especially as students are learning about government, democracy, being a citizen, and the walkouts gave them the chance to experience what that means by participating.
“Now they’re actually feeling what it’s like to be a citizen by coming together and taking a stance to do something,” Lorraine Wilson said.
She also said she supported her daughter’s efforts because, so far, state and national lawmakers have taken little action to protect children from school shootings.
Something needs to be done, Lorraine Wilson said, and perhaps the student-driven protests like Wednesday’s walkout will prompt lawmakers to act.
“And even though they’re too young to vote, they can do something like this and let the adults know how they feel,” Lorraine Wilson said.
Natalie Wilson said, more than just becoming engaged, she wants adults to know how she and her classmates are feeling because they should care that students are scared.
“It’s a fear we have every day, and they have never had to worry about that when they were growing up,” she said.