For Lower Manhattan Schools, More Than One Way to 'Walk Out'

Eighth grader Joseph Tracy speaks to his fellow IS 289 students about the need for gun control during 10 a.m. school walkout that swept the country on Wednesday. In the school yard, several students took turns making speeches to their peers. Photo: April Koral/Tribeca Trib

Mar. 15, 2018

Like other students around the city and the country on Wednesday, kids in Lower Manhattan schools found ways of their own to join in solidarity against the kinds of guns and gun violence that one month ago took 17 lives at Florida’s Margory Stoneman Douglas High School. Even for children too young to know the terrible details, it was in some schools a time of song in praise of peace. Here is how students in many of Downtown’s schools chose to commemorate National School Walkout Day.

PS 150 Students Sing for Peace

Seated on the steps leading to their school, the children held posters with peace signs and sang songs of peace, led by their music teacher, Tony Kunin. And with Principal Jenny Bonnet holding the microphone, some of the children read poems about peace. “There were no guns mentioned, because they’re too young,” Bonnet said. “It was peace and love.”

Speaking Out in the IS 89 Schoolyard

IS 289 students turned their school yard into a platform for protest as they formed a circle, some holding signs with the names of the murdered kids from Stoneman Douglas High. Taking turns, they stood in the center and made impassioned speeches for gun control. “I understand that some people want their freedom and I understand that some people need to respect the 2nd Amendment. I want to respect the Second Amendment as well,” said 8th grader Judah Angert, shouting over the din of West Street traffic. “But there needs to be limitations. The 2nd Amendment was designed for muskets, which you had a minute to reload.”

The terrorist events of Oct. 31, witnessed by many of the students and leading to the school's lockdown, made the subject of gun violence an especially difficult one for some teachers to talk about with their classes, noted the principal, Zeynep Ozkan. But she said they know that students need their support. We have to a walk a line. We have to be apolitical but we have to teach our children how to be school activists too, and they look to us to teach them.

PS 234 Students Say, "Put a Little Love in Your Heart"

There were no signs, just a song and a moment of silence in the PS 234 school yard, where children gathered for a rendition of “Put a Little Love in Your Heart.” It was a scene much like the one organized in 2001 for the school’s tenth anniversary of 9/11. In her letter to parents announcing the school’s planned observance for the day, Principal Lisa Ripperger wrote: As a school leader I feel it is imperative to send a strong message to our larger community and its elected leadership that our children and the grown-ups who serve them in schools, deserve to be safe. Although there are many, often polarizing views on the topic of gun control and school safety, this is the crux of the issue.”

PS/IS 276 Students March

The walkout for PS/IS 276’s 4th through 8th graders took students in a loop down to The Battery and back around to their southern Battery Park City school. Once arriving, they held signs and chanted slogans before returning to their classrooms. Karen Addison, the mother of a 4th grader, said she felt the event provided solidarity with students in Parkland, Fla., and across the country. “When they see it on the news,” she said, “they will feel the love from the kids in New York.”

Like some parents at hers and other schools, she said she hesitated to give permission for her daughter to participate, fearing the group could be a target. “But I’m glad we did it, she said. “We definitely believe in the message.”

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, peace and non-violence will be the all-day classroom topic at PS/IS 276.

Cuomo Joins Leadership and Public Service High Schoolers in "Die In"

This school had its protest in Zuccotti Park, where students held a “die-in.” Lying down with them was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, clapping along and chanting “Enough is enough!” Also prostrate on the plaza nearby was Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and former United Federation of Teachers president Michael Mulgrew.

Taking Protest to NY Stock Exchange: Léman Manhattan Prep…

The canyons of Wall Street literally echoed with the chants of students whose schools are just a few blocks away. Some 500 students, faculty and parents from Léman Manhattan Preparatory School gathered in front of the New York Stock Exchange, where four students and the head of school, Maria Castelluccio, made brief speeches. “Don’t you think it is unbelievable that we are sending kids to school to protect their future while we can no longer protect their present?” said 12th grader Juan Pava.

…and Lower Manhattan Community Middle School

LMC students filled Broad Street with hundreds of more kids, chanting “No more silence, end our silence” and “NRA, go away,” while holding signs with an array of anti-gun messages. “One child is worth more than ALL the guns on earth,” read one. “Am I Next?” asked another.

Richard R. Greene High Schoolers say: "I Believe We Can Win"

The high school students exited their building on Beaver Street and headed south, struggling to keep a grip on signs that kept catching the wind. Standing in front of the Museum of the American Indian, they repeated the megaphoned chant led by student Brendan Gonzales. “I believe that we will win!” they shouted.

Signs and Silence at the Spruce Street School

Students from pre-k to 8th grade and family members filled the plaza in front of the school. The names of the victims in the Parkland, Fla., shooting were read aloud as the gathering stood in silence. At the microphone was student Natalie Boettle, who had written a stirring message for the occasion. “Too many lives lost to guns, too many students just like us who feel unsafe just by simply going to school,” she said. “Too many times that our voices have gone unheard.”

A Time to "Imagine" at the Peck Slip School

Children in the 3rd through 5th grades stood outside the school and sang “Imagine.” They were not there to protest guns, said Principal Maggie Siena, but simply to call for school safety as well as peace. We didn’t advocate for any positions because we have a parent body with a diversity of opinions about how issues might be resolved and our kids are too young to have their own beliefs about it,” Siena said in a telephone interview, “so we made it about being safe in schools and standing with the kids who were making an effort to make sure that happened.”

“In the end,” she added, “I think it was a commemoration that people felt really good about, in the sense that we hope we never have to do it again.”

— April Koral contributed reporting