March for Our Lives at Dana Middle School


Cole Bruhnke, Editor in Chief

On February 14, 2018, an ex-student of a high school in Parkland, Florida entered the campus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with an AR-15. He killed 17 people, students and staff, and wounded another seventeen. This day was one of the most deadly and horrifying shootings in American history.

On March 14, 2018, exactly one month later, thousands of students across the country walked out of their classes. They protested in support of the Parkland students and more gun control.

At Dana Middle School, students and teachers took part in this walkout, and left their 2nd period classes at 10:00am. Everyone who wished to participate met on the North PE field. Many had signs saying “Stop Guns, Not Lives” and “Who’s Next”. The massive group of hundreds of students proceeded to enter the main building and headed to the auditorium.


“My favorite part was when students were marching to the auditorium.” said 8th grader Alma Bruhnke, who spoke in the auditorium. “It felt very empowering because I saw all those people flooding down the stairs…”

On the stage of the auditorium were 17 empty chairs. They represented the 17 people who would never return to their school. Above, a projector displayed their names and pictures of them.  Later in the event, students were called up to sit in the seats. This symbolized what it would be like to have your friends, peers, or students lost.

“The chair idea was something modified from a suggestion of setting up empty chairs, so we modified it to have Dana students sit there to represent how hurtful it would be if the shooting happened at Dana.” said Mr. Gebhart, Dana Middle School’s Principal.

“The video, I had the idea from Facebook. I had seen it on Facebook and I liked the fact that it wasn’t a regular news story where you had to sit there and watch an anchor and listen to them. It was truly about the people, and I thought that would be magical when you guys (the students) came in.” said 8th grade English teacher Ms. McNeny, who oversaw the protest’s organization.

“Putting the two together (the chairs and slides), I think was incredibly powerful, and the whole idea of having Mr. Gebhart have Cali (one of the leaders of the protest) pick kids to go up and sit in those chairs…it’s making me cry now! It made a whole bunch of teachers cry.” This idea was brought up by many students as the best part of the walkout and it moved staff and students alike.

As soon as everyone was in their seats, speakers moved to the front of the auditorium. They started chants such as “I don’t know what I’ve been told, shooting schools is getting old!” and “How many more?”

“I think my favorite part of the walkout was that moment when the audience, the crowd, got quiet and started to listen to you guys (the speakers) and never did the noise level go back up again. They could hear you guys throughout the entire thing and that was magical, because that very rarely happens in middle school” said Ms. McNeny.

Speakers such as Alma, myself, and Caden Jamison talked about personal experiences with guns, violence in society, past shootings, and the need for stricter gun laws.

Alma said, “I felt very excited to be speaking and I knew that this was something that I didn’t need to be scared to speak about on stage because all of us in there were one. We had passion for the cause and everyone had each other’s back.”

She was motivated by her own beliefs and her experience with this protest to speak at the March for Our Lives in Long Beach, which was associated with the same causes.

“I believe that Alma Bruhnke’s speech was very thoughtful and relevant,” said Mr. Gebhart. “…all of the speakers were passionate and connected with the student audience. My favorite part was the students cheering for their peers as they all felt like they were there for a common purpose.”

The whole event was planned by students in Ms. McNeny’s classroom. The leaders were Cali Jackson and your’s truly, Cole Bruhnke. They and the other students decided on the logistics of the walkout -where the groups would meet, chants, phrases, and speakers.

Some critiques given by students and teachers is that this process should have started sooner. If this had happened, the whole thing could have been a little more organized. “…there were things that we learned such as maybe starting our planning a little earlier.” said Ms. McNeny.

“One of the things we realized when we were going to start and have a brief rally on the basketball court before we went in, we hadn’t really thought about the multitude of kids that didn’t really know that, so we kind of removed that step. I think it was ok that we didn’t do that. I think it worked out well considering all the students that spoke, I was glad we had the extra time in the auditorium.”

Others commented that not all the protesters were completely aware what they were protesting. While the walkout was in support of the Parkland students and gun law reform, some signs spoke of topics like racism and social injustice. Ms McNeny said that “getting the message out about specifically what the protest was and getting more signs that were on target with it so that kids would really understand the message of it” would have been beneficial.

Some wished that there would have been a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting. This was attempted unsuccessfully as the students would not stop talking. Others had hoped that there had been an actual march or that the group would have proceeded off campus. The reason neither happened was because the whole event was supposed to be over by 3rd period and that left a choice between speakers in the auditorium or walking. Also, students are not supposed to exit campus during school hours.

The last assessment was that the message of the protest was not spread well enough. Alma Bruhnke said, “I think there could have been more teachers involved, like how many people actually knew? How many teachers participated?”

Of course, not every student went. Aidan Alfaro, an 8th grade student who did not attend the protest, said that he didn’t go because it didn’t matter to him enough. He wasn’t politically active. He also mentioned that he was slightly worried about the threat to San Pedro HS.

The day prior to the protest, a shooting threat was made on Social Media. It spread and worried some, especially since students would be in large groups outside their classrooms. The threat was deemed non-credible so students were allowed to come to school.

In all, students and staff alike were generally happy with the protest.When asked about what she was most proud of from her students in the protest, Ms. McNeny said, “There’s so much. I’m proud of how many stepped up to speak. I’m proud of those of you guys (the students) that were being strong leaders given that we didn’t have a lot of infrastructure for you to lead, and yet you found a way to make it work. We are proud of that all the kids went back to class. Too much. Too much to be proud of.”

“I actually do not have any critiques. I am so proud of all of the students and their bravery in organizing and leading this effort. I am most proud of the way the students stayed focused on their goal, and followed each other in speaking out about the issue in a respectful and forceful way” said Mr. Gebhart. “I am extremely happy, and look forward to students continuing to use their voice to speak out on issues important to them.”