Students light the way in walkout

Middle school students from Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School take  part in the National School Walkout last week to advocate for action to prevent gun violence.


We teach students at the Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School from the first day of kindergarten that they have power  and that they should use it in big ways and small. We reiterate this at every opportunity, and celebrate with them when their ideas and efforts affect positive change.

So it was no surprise that our middle school students decided to participate in last Wednesday morning’s National School Walkout to push for action to prevent gun violence.

Earlier in the week, eighth-grader Max asked a teacher about the plan. He was met with, “Well, this is a student-led walkout. Whether you participate and what you do depends on you.”

What unfolded was nothing short of extraordinary. Students brainstormed ideas, made some decisions and came up with a plan without adult input. They decided to make 17 signs, each with the name of a student killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They wouldstand in silenceon Ladue Road for 17 minutes, knowing that hundreds of thousands of students across the nation were doing the same. 

Since March 14 marked the end of theshloshim(30 day mourning period) for those students, they closed the 17 minutes byreciting the mourner’s kaddish together. After that, they lowered signs with the student names and raised signs about ending gun violence. (They chose to focus their signs on ending gun violence, rather than on changing gun laws — because they felt they could all agree on opposing gun violence.) They marched down Mason Road to school to lower the flags to half mast.

Chants gave way to song, and we adults, there to ensure their safety, all had chills listening to their voices harmonize “Olam Chesed Yibaneh 〞 I will build this world from love.” 

I was impressed with their initiative, creativity and energy. I was impressed by the students who felt confident choosing not to participate. I was impressed by the respect each student had for the decisions of others, and for understanding that pluralism extends beyond religious practice.

These change makers are our future. And a bright future indeed awaits!

Cheryl Maayan is head of school at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School.