Cranston students stand up for safety in nationwide walkout

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — On Feb. 14, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 students and staff members.

It was the country’s deadliest high school shooting and has since moved students from Rhode Island to California to take a stand against gun violence and walk out of class Wednesday at 10 a.m.

Even though this week’s nor’easter caused schools such as Cranston High School West to delay classes Wednesday, students there tell Eyewitness News they remain hopeful lawmakers will hear their message that gun violence in schools won’t be tolerated anymore.

“It’s happening so frequently that we’ve got to a point we talk about it for two days and then we just move on,” Cranston West senior Ajibikee Lawal said.

Students across the country participated in the National Gun Violence School Walkout for 17 minutes, one for each victim killed in the Parkland shooting. West senior Heather DiFazio says students are demanding that Congress take action now to prevent a similar tragedy from happening in the future.

Senior Charles Pisaturo said he believes action must be taken because thoughts and prayers “don’t suffice anymore.”

The group of students at Cranston West agree that assault-type weapons like AR-15’s should be banned, and better background checks need to be implemented for gun purchases.

“Just to see the legislators take action, not necessarily on a gun ban because I feel there’s a common misconception that you have to be anti-gun to be pro-gun control,” sophomore Vy Ho said. “We want just better background checks, longer waiting lists and we don’t want like the shooter in Florida to get an AR-15 legally.”

As for arming teachers, junior Mia James says, “no way.”

“Teachers are human and make mistakes, but I would not feel safe coming to school knowing that teachers with guns, anything could happen,” she said. “A student could grab your gun and it could go off. I don’t feel safe coming to school knowing that.”

Cranston West Principal Tom Barbieri agrees with his students that arming teachers is not the solution, saying he feels having resource officers on hand is essential.

Barbieri said another way to keep students safe is to have a plan in place.

“Based on the situation, the school is going to react and call for a certain plan, and it may not be hiding in a corner and be sitting ducks or whatever threat may be in that building,” he explained. “There are different plans for different situations. Barricading a door to prevent an attacker coming into the classroom. Attacking the attacker rather than sitting there and waiting to see what the attacker does to you.”

Barbieri said he supports his students’ right to speak out and he’s glad they have a voice and are standing up because something needs to be done.

“My fellow colleagues, we’ve all had enough,” he added.

This group of students also said an important part of the conversation is respecting one another so they can all go home to their families.

“It’s reached a point where we’ve lost a sense of what to do when a tragedy occurs,” Lawal said. “What we’re trying to make this about, students uniting together under one common goal with the same message of respect to the people who lost their lives and to demand action.”