Prospect students are among thousands of teens nationwide leading mobilization efforts to end gun violence in the wake of the Florida school shootings that left 17 dead.
The students, David Lei, Novia Dattatri, Hiwad Haider and Daniel Voskoboynik, all seniors, are fundraising for the March for Our Lives San Jose, one of hundreds of rallies planned March 24.
They are joining an increasingly vocal choir of students who are advocating for long-term gun legislation that they hope will end school shootings like the one on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
“I don’t want people to have that fear,” said Voskoboynik. “I don’t want anybody to live in fear that they’re going to go to school and die.”
Voskoboynik said that the March for Our Lives Facebook group is seeing a lot of traction, and has received more than $7,000 in donations toward city permits and security on their GoFundMe page.
He said he is driven by the student-led grassroots effort, and acknowledges that organizing a massive rally takes a lot of planning and meetings.
“We aren’t experienced, but we are finding out along the way, we are making mistakes and learning from that,” he said. “We’re okay with making mistakes because we just want to advocate for a change.”
According to David Lei, who initiated local efforts for the march, their groups’ ultimate goal is to educate students. He’s targeting voting-age students who prior to the shooting have not been politically active.
“Whoever shows up to this event that hasn’t been an advocate before, that hasn’t taken a stance on any political issue before, is going to be more informed,” Lei said. “Those that are already informed well become more passionate, and the idea is that … the advocacy that we’re going to continue as an organization after this one event is going to eventually create change that will prevent another tragedy like the one that happened in Florida.”
To help with the education effort, district and school administrators are reminding students of the importance of the twice-yearly active shooter drills.
“We are going to start working really hard to increase the opportunity for students to know what these practices are, and increase the effectiveness of what we do,” said Principal Cheryl Lawton.
These drills tell students to first run away from gunshots until they’re far from the area and in a safe area.
If that’s not possible, students and teachers are to barricade themselves and remain quiet. The last resort is to attack the shooter in an aggressive manner, incapacitating them.
Superintendent Robert Bravo sent an email to parents in the district to remind students that counselors are available on campus to discuss the tragedy, and to encourage students to report suspicious behavior.
In recent days, it was shown that authorities missed several red flags that others had raised of Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old confessed perpetrator behind the shooting. He showed an intense interest in guns, knives and violence and was reported to an FBI tip line.
His classmates considered his behavior and his Instagram posts to be abnormal, with features including disturbing images of weapons and dead animals.
Cruz used an AR-15 rifle he legally purchased to commit the shooting. He is now booked on 17 counts of premeditated murder.
Cruz was expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last year and teachers received an email warning them to look out for Cruz, who was not to be on campus. On Feb. 14, Cruz pulled the fire alarm at the high school, which students believed to be the second fire drill that day. After students began evacuating into the halls, he began shooting.
This is the eighth school shooting resulting in injury or death in the US this year, only seven weeks into 2018. The United States is the leader in gun violence, with 90 mass shooters from 1966 to 2012; the nation is home to 4.4 percent of the world’s population and owns 42 percent of all firearms, according to the New York Times.
The U.S. recognizes a mass shooting as a public incident in which four or more people are killed.
Vice principal Justin Ponzio claimed that being aware of these situations makes people prepared for any event that may come.
“We should never be immune to death and terrorism. We should never be immune to what we see,” he said.