“Ban bullets, not books.”
“School is for learning, not lockdowns.”
“I should be scared for a pop quiz, not my life.”
These and dozens of other phrases covered the concrete outside Boise High School Wednesday, after at least 70 students put chalk to the sidewalk to protest gun violence.
Driven by the recent school shooting in Nashville, Tenn., which resulted in the deaths of three young students and three adults, the walkout was part of a nationwide effort organized by March for Our Lives, a youth-led organization started by the student survivors of the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Idaho’s March for Our Lives chapter headed up the Boise event.
Gun violence is the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And at least 74 people have been killed or injured in school shootings so far in 2023.
Idaho hasn’t seen a school shooting since May 2021, when a sixth-grader shot three people at Rigby Middle School.
But that doesn’t mean Idaho students feel safe.
Lockdowns and shelter-in-place alerts aren’t uncommon.
In February, at least five Idaho school districts received active shooter alerts — part of a nationwide series of hoax calls. All of the alerts were unfounded, but it caused at least two lockdowns, and an increased police presence on school campuses.
“To say this isn’t an issue in Idaho is absurd,” said Boise student Bridget Gibson, who sits on the MFOL Idaho board and helped organize Wednesday’s walkout. Gibson attended her first walkout and protest as a seventh-grader, and has since experienced countless lockdowns, shelter-in-places and shooting threats at school — the most recent of which occurred last week, she told EdNews.
“Every single student I know, all of my friends, we’re afraid that we’re going to be the next victims of a mass shooting. And that is never something that we should think when we go to school,” Gibson said Wednesday.
And fear was a uniting factor among the Boise students.
Boise High sophomore Eloisa Harper is invested in her academics. She’s taking Advanced Placement courses and is focused on school — but grades aren’t the only worry on her mind.
“I would love to be able to go to school and not have to think about what I would do if I was in a shooting,” Harper said. “I’m in AP classes, I want to go to a good college, but I have to make it through high school in order to get there.”
The goal of Wednesday’s walkout was to not only draw attention to gun violence and its impact on students, but to call on lawmakers to make a change. A few students held up signs with contact information for Idaho’s congressmen.
“I want to tell Idaho lawmakers that we are not going to back down. We’re not going to be silenced,” Gibson said. “You cannot just brush us under the rug to support your political agenda.”