SASS hosts walkout in honor of sixth anniversary of Sandy Hook shooting

Members of the group Students Against School Shootings planned a district-wide walkout to recognize the victims of Sandy Hook.


Photo courtesy of Olivia Barker '20

Students from City High and West High gather to hear speakers from SASS

Six years ago, 26 children and teachers were killed in their classrooms at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. This shooting has come to represent the catalyst for the movement for stricter gun legislation in America.

On December 14 at 2:26 p.m., students from City High School, West High School and Southeast Junior High School left their classes and proceeded to walk to the Ped-Mall in downtown Iowa City. This event, planned by the group Students Against School Shootings (SASS),  was to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting on its sixth anniversary, as well as to protest the lack of change in gun regulations.

City High SASS member Shoshie Hemley ‘21 worked hard to advertise the walkout during the days prior to the event to amplify the voices of her and her peers.

“We wanted to hold another protest because so much momentum has died down since Parkland and yet nothing has changed. We decided this would be the perfect day because it’s the anniversary of the deadliest school shooting and the fourth deadliest mass shooting in the U.S.,” Hemley said. “It could be you next, your siblings next, or your cousins next. This is the way our voices get heard; it’s always the young people being the change.”

This is the way our voices get heard; it’s always the young people being the change.”

— Shoshie Hemley '21, CHS

Although this walkout was smaller than others SASS planned, the group still felt like the event was a success because everyone in attendance had the same fervor for change. One of these passionate students was City High’s Ana Vanbeek ’21.

“I came out today because I think it’s important for us to have awareness of what’s going on and for politicians to see the effects that the [lack of legislation] is having because [gun violence]not just having effects on the people that are being shot,” Vanbeek said.

A number of students from West High met the City High students downtown. Principal Gregg Shoultz sent out an email that day notifying parents of the walkout happening. Students were also requested to have their parents call them out of class if they planned to attend the walkout or they would be marked absent and unexcused.

“Students always have the right to peacefully protest, and the district honors their right to free speech … As a school district, we respect that students have a voice. When a collective group, like our student body, takes interest in national politics to help make a difference in the world, we support them and want to work with them to do so in a positive and meaningful manner,” Schultz said in his email. “School is a great place for our students to learn about proper civil discourse, and our teachers are poised to be mentors on these topics.”

Leah Rietz ’20, was one of the West students who participated in the walkout. She wanted to stand in solidarity with peers from across town to send a message to politicians across America.

“I decided to participate in the walkout so my voice could be heard. Nothing regarding gun laws will change unless we stand up for what we believe in. I walked out so I could go to school and not be afraid,” Rietz said.

SASS members are proud of the walkout and are looking to continue the momentum into the new year with hopes to make strides in the debate over gun control. Most of all, they want Americans to remember that schools are supposed to be a safe place for students.

“We’re getting used to hearing about kids dying in their schools … I wanted people to walk out today so that we could remember that this isn’t normal, so we could remember that children being killed in their school isn’t something that we should be used to or expect to happen to us or to our friends,” Esti Brady ‘20, another City High member of SASS said. “Really to remind ourselves that it’s not okay and that we can do something about it. We don’t just have to sit here and accept [gun violence] as a fact.”