On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, high school students across the country are planning to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. and march to demand an end to gun violence in schools. The person behind the National High School Walkout is a teenager from Connecticut: Lane Murdock.
Murdock, 15, loves musical theater and poetry. The precocious teen has won a playwriting contest and regularly gives speeches at Ridgefield High School — just a half-hour drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School — where she’s currently a sophomore. Her knack for communication will come in handy now that she finds herself in the middle of the national conversation about gun violence.
On Valentine’s Day, Murdock was among the countless Americans horrified by the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. But when she returned home from school, she found her voice.
“It kind of started because we weren’t happy with how our nation and how our school have been dealing with the tragedy,” she told Yahoo News. “It started out with me personally. I went home and made the petition, which gained some good traction, and then made the Twitter account, which really blew up overnight.”
Murdock’s petition to the U.S. Senate and president demanding action to stop gun violence was posted on change.org. She argued that politicians have been too complacent in the face of gun violence and that the voices of teenagers have not been heard. Signing the petition constitutes a pledge from the (teen) signers to walk out and let the government know that it’s time for a change.
The marchers will be wearing orange, which Murdock chose because hunters wear the color to avoid getting shot. Hunter orange sends the message: Don’t shoot! “It seemed to fit the movement well, in my opinion,” she said.
Two days later, as the petition and attention started to gain attention, Murdock sought out others to help with planning.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind. I want it to gain popularity and support because the movement is so important, but it doesn’t prep you for when it actually happens,” she said.
What does she want her generation to do? Walk out, have sit-ins, hold hands, talk to each other and express how they feel because most high school students are not yet old enough to vote.
“We don’t really get a say or anything like that in these issues, even though when shooters go in our schools they’re going to our classrooms and our spaces,” she said. “As far as the movement goes, we kind of wanted to be a way to give a voice to teenagers.”
Since the National Walkout concept is only a week old, much more brainstorming and planning will be necessary before April 20. Murdock says more information will become available as the day approaches.
Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were murdered on Feb. 14, have been galvanized to work for political change. They held a rally for gun control at the Broward County federal courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and are similarly planning the “March for Our Lives” on March 24 in Washington — calling on lawmakers to enact stricter gun laws.
Murdock said members of her generation — variously called Generation Z and the Homeland Generation — differ from millennials because they grew up as digital natives, whereas the millennials experienced a shift.
“Kids like me can start a movement using a Chromebook computer they’ve had since sixth grade,” she said. “It’s easy to get into contact with people who have similar ideas or similar hopes.”
Though her generation is young and inexperienced, she said, they are brave, resilient and care about one another. She asked older people to listen and have patience as her generation enters the public eye and the national conversation — many for the first time. She said she isn’t accepting donations or working with any corporations, and that this movement is “the definition of grassroots.”
“We are motivated, passionate people. We’re just doing it differently than a lot of other generations had done it before,” she said.
Murdock was born in her mother’s home state of Texas, and moved to Ridgefield in 2006, when she was 4. She thinks that her writing experience has helped her prepare to speak to people nationally. But she was quick to note the importance of representation. She characterized the walkout as “nonpolitical” and “anti-violence,” and wants to elevate the voices of many teens throughout the U.S. — not just hers.
“I think it’s really important that people know we’re a student-run movement. I want to make sure that during the course of this movement, I’m not pushing my own ideology, but the ideology of the students nationally,” she said. “That’s why we’re kind of working and talking to students right now to see what they want to happen and what kind of change they want, because I don’t want this to be the Lane movement, I want it to be a student movement.”
As of Friday, the petition has more than 166,000 signatures.
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