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What is normally a sleepy school vacation week for most students in Massachusetts has been filled with activism as students respond to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last week.
According to a WBUR tally, students at at least 40 middle and high schools from Eastham to Williamstown are planning to participate in a national school walkout on March 14.
"Every time there's just this cycle whenever there's a school shooting and no one really gets anything done," said Peyton Dauley, a 15-year-old sophomore at Mashpee High School, one of the schools participating in the March 14 walkout. "It's time for students to take charge and say, 'This is what I want.' "
Dauley said she has been aware of school shootings before, but the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 died, felt different.
"I saw these videos and it just kind of hit," she said, referencing cellphone footage students took as the shooting unfolded last Wednesday. "These kids are my age. That looks like my school. That could be me."
After seeing plans for a national student walkout circulating on social media, Dauley and her 16-year-old classmate Stella Bold decided they wanted to take action.
"Whenever I hear about [a school shooting], I always want to take charge, but I've never really thought about how to do it," Bold said. Then she heard about the national walkout. Over the past week, Bold and Dauley have been connecting via Snapchat with students from six other schools on the Cape, discussing the shooting, legislative action and school safety protocols.
"Ever since Sandy Hook and the shootings that followed up until Parkland, there's been a growing sense of hopelessness among students," said 17-year-old Falmouth High School senior Daniel Gessen. "It seems like nothing’s ever done. We talk thoughts and prayers, but nothing is ever changed."
But Gessen said he was inspired by watching students in Parkland step up to the microphone and advocate for change.
"Once the students got involved in Parkland, it really did feel different," he said. "If something's going to break that cycle, it is going to be the students speaking out and acting in ways that force their legislators to make a difference."
"I saw these videos and it just kind of hit. These kids are my age. That looks like my school. That could be me."Peyton Dauley, a 15-year-old sophomore at Mashpee High School
Gessen will turn 18 in August. And in November, he's looking forward to taking his activism to the polls to vote in his first election. In the meantime, he hopes lawmakers take note of student voices, even those who cannot cast ballots yet.
Gessen said he and other students are drafting letters to state and congressional lawmakers to advocate for policy changes that include requiring background checks on every firearm purchase; creating an extreme risk protective order, which would allow judges to temporarily remove guns from someone ruled a danger to themselves or others; and defeating the proposed national concealed carry reciprocity legislation.
"Just to get my driver's license, I had to do 12 hours of instructed driving, another 40 hours with my parents, and I still couldn't pass my driving test if I couldn't parallel park," Rachel Pryke, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School, told Radio Boston Wednesday. "The fact that people can walk in and easily get a gun and cause a lot more harm is just ridiculous to me."
Federal officials have said the alleged Parkland shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, about a year ago legally purchased the AR-15 rifle he used in the attack. Florida does not require a special permit to purchase a firearm, limit the number of firearms an individual can purchase, or have a waiting period for purchasing a long gun.
Massachusetts has some of the strictest gun regulations in the nation and requires a specific license for anyone who possesses or carries a firearm in the state, as well as background check as part of that licensing process. The state does not require private sellers to conduct a background check.
Acton-Boxborough senior Pryke wants to see an outright national ban on assault-style rifles.
Bold and Dauley, of Mashpee High, added that they want more support for mental health treatment. They also want students at their school to be better equipped to respond to an active shooter on campus.
"For a long time, our school had this protocol called 'Code Red,' which basically meant hiding in a corner and locking the door and closing the blinds and just hoping that whoever was inside the school wasn't going to come into your classroom," Bold explained.
A year and a half ago, school administrators underwent a training program called ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate. Bold and Dauley want Mashpee students to receive the training as well.
"I like the idea of fighting back instead of just waiting, huddled behind our classroom doors," Bold said.
The Mashpee school superintendent did not return requests for comment about ALICE training for students.
Lockdown drills are a part of school life in Falmouth, said Gessen.
"We've had lockdowns ever since we were in elementary school," he said. "But since the Sandy Hook shooting, it feels like whenever there's a lockdown it's no longer just a 20-minute break from class. You never know if it's an actual real-life active shooter event or something along those lines. It does make you fear. And it's not something students should be feeling when they go to school."
Even though the students said they do not feel unsafe in their particular schools, they feel a sense of unpredictability about where the next school shooting could happen.
They are hoping that the adults, particularly lawmakers, will take note on March 14 or the nationwide marches scheduled for March 24.
This segment aired on February 22, 2018.
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