Students making a difference

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On Wednesday, students from around Flathead County will join forces with others from around the state and nation to honor the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Wednesday marks the one-month anniversary of the shooting, which claimed the lives of 17 students. As a remembrance of that horrible tragedy, students will walk out of school for 17 minutes as a show of support for school safety and the victims of gun violence.

Local schools caution that the event is to steer clear of politics, but are generally supportive of their students taking an active role in this demonstration.

As Whitefish School District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said, “We recognize our students need to have an opportunity to have a voice, so we’re creating that opportunity and safe environment for them.”

That same supportive reaction has been heard across much of the Flathead Valley, from parents and other community members. In addition, we have heard from readers on our Facebook page with advice on how students can make a long-term difference.

This post from Tami Martinsen Miller was representative of the feelings of many people who read our news account of the walkout:

“Since walking out of school really doesn’t accomplish anything, it would seem to be much more effective if the students decided to stay in school and make a special effort to greet 17 extra people, extend a kind gesture to 17 extra people, take the time to listen to 17 extra people, and make 17 extra friends — not just on March 14th for 17 minutes but for the rest of their lives. They could learn that while it does take more effort, forming positive relationships with people is a much greater catalyst for change.”

We concur. The history of school shootings shows that they are often carried out by people with a troubled youth — the “weird” kids or the guy who was bullied because he looked different. If more students made an effort to understand and reach out to those isolated individuals, they might be able to make a big difference in people’s lives — not necessarily stop a shooting, but maybe stop a suicide or give someone the hope for a better life.

One thing is certain: Students working together to voice their concerns and looking for solutions is a step in the right direction.

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