Following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, discussion on how to move forward has been diverse and often combative. One Hampstead woman found herself pushed into the middle of this discussion after a Facebook post she wrote Feb. 26 went viral and spurred many more responses under the #walkupnotout hashtag that has seen use on social media.
“Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up — walk up to the kid who sits a lone at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile and say Hi; walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask how he is doing; walk up to your teachers and thank them; walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them — you may be surprised at how much you have in common. Build on that foundation instead of casting stones,” wrote Kelly Guest, a mother and youth minister in Hampstead.
“I challenge students to find 14 students and 3 adults to walk up to on March 14 and say something nice in honor of those who died in FL. But you can start practicing now! #walkupnotout”
Since the post gained an extensive following — it has garnered more than 69,500 shares, 32,000 reactions and 3,200 comments as of Tuesday afternoon — Guest said she has reflected more on its part in the national conversation.
“I had to think ‘What did I do, what did I start?’ ” she said. “I’m not offering a solution to school shootings. [Speaking] to each other with love and respect— I hope that’s what this will do.”
The main catalyst for her post was watching the CNN town hall style meeting where survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School addressed legislators, law enforcement and an NRA spokesperson.
Guest felt that the dialogue from students was impassioned but became disrespectful in a way that did not further the discussion.
A similarly viral Facebook post by teacher David Blair was also an influence.
Ideally she envisions a back-and-forth dialogue that respects both young students’ voices and older people.
“We being an older generation have to hear from your passion,” she said. But young students can get caught up in their passion and can benefit from the wisdom of those with more life experience.
“Not saying that political officials always have wisdom … but it has to be a two-way dialogue,” she said.
Guest said she has seen a majority of positive reactions to her ideas, though the post has not been without criticism.
Some feel it is victim blaming against survivors of school shootings, she said.
“It is in no way meant to do that,” she said. “No one is responsible but the young man who pulled the trigger. … The time to reach out to him would have been years ago.”
Guest responded to some of the response in a blog post published Monday.
Besides outright agreement and disagreement, another category of response has been those who take issue with the “not” in walk up not out and are in favor of students protesting formally as well as reaching out to individuals within their schools.
“I think the word ‘not’ gets a lot of people upset,” she said.
Guest herself does not feel that walkouts, widely scheduled for Wednesday morning, are appropriate venues for the message.
She says she feels that some of the walkouts have been “hijacked” and are about more than honoring the victims of the Florida shooting and standing against violence.
“I can’t fully support that,” she said.
She feels the march in Washington planned for April 20 is a more appropriate venue for those who want to address the topic and says she and her children have previously participated in political marches for the anti-abortion movement.
“I’m not sure making something illegal… will stop these things” and could even give students “a false sense of security.”
“I definitely want to honor those that have died in Parkland,” she said, but feels that a better way to show that respect is by walking up to others directly in their community.
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“Lets walk up civilly to each other and talk, and find out what we have in common,” she said.