Seventh-graders Harper Nowlin (from left), Tyler Press and Kavya Tulsiani organized the demonstration at Chute Middle School for stricter gun laws. Credit: Richard Cahan
Hundreds of students at Chute Middle School walked out of class Tuesday, June 7, to protest gun violence and support government restrictions on the sale and use of guns. The protest occurred exactly two weeks after a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas using a legally-obtained AR-15 assault rifle.
Chute seventh graders Harper Nowlin, Tyler Press and Kavya Tulsiani began organizing the action last Wednesday after reading about other students across the country protesting school shootings and gun violence. Thanks to a suggestion from their drama teacher, they planned the event with Principal Jim McHolland for 8:30 am
“I hope this shows that young kids aren’t afraid to make a difference, and if we’re not afraid, then the government shouldn’t be afraid to support the change of gun laws,” Tulsiani told the RoundTable. “I hope this inspires other people to do the same.”
Students poured out of the building holding signs with messages like “stop school violence” and “protect kids, not guns.”
Teachers also joined the protest while supervising the participating students, who lined up along the sidewalk between the school building and Oakton Street in south Evanston. Dozens of cars driving by the protest honked in support and rolled down their windows to cheer for the students during the 20-minute walkout.
Tuesday’s protest at Chute also occurred a day after Students Demand Action, a national organization committed to ending gun violence, kicked off a week of student protests across the country with a rally on Capitol Hill in DC
A group of bipartisan US senators, led by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Texas Republican John Cornyn, is currently negotiating potential gun legislation that could include more mental health resources for students and enhanced background checks. But raising the minimum age required to buy a gun and banning assault-style weapons like the AR-15 do not appear to be on the table.
“We’re fed up,” Nowlin said. “We need to be able to feel safe in our own schools because they’re supposed to be our safe zone. One of my friends made a sign that says ‘This is a school, not a war zone.’ And I think it’s ridiculous that we have to make posters reminding people that this is supposed to be a safe space.”
McHolland, who oversaw the walkout and helped usher students back into the building for their second period classes Tuesday morning, told the RoundTable that “it was an outstanding event” and “I’m glad our kids did this.”
Iden Nowlin, Harper’s mother, added that sometimes, children demanding change can have a greater impact on the minds of elected officials than adults who do so. Seeing firsthand how gun violence and school shootings are damaging the mental health and wellbeing of children, she said, will hopefully send a message that something needs to change immediately.
“Hopefully, this can bring the attention of legislators and Congress people so that we can actually bring a change and put more restrictions on guns,” Press said, “so more kids don’t die at school.”
Richard Cahan contributed reporting.