After School Shooting, Students Take the Lead

After 17 people were killed in a school shooting in Parkland, FL, students turned their grief over the loss of their classmates into actions that galvanized the nation. In this activity, participants hear the voices of the Parkland students, and consider the variety of ways they are trying to make change. 


Share the following quote from the news this past week:

“People say it’s too early to talk about it.  If you ask me, it’s way too late.”

Invite students to consider what story in the news this quote might have been in reference to.   Who might have said it?   Who was it in response to?  What was seen as “way too late?”

Elicit and explain that this was said by Cameron Kasky, a junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., the site of one of the deadliest school shootings in modern American history.  On Wednesday, February 14, 2018, at 2:19 PM, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into the school, just before dismissal, with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.  He killed 17 people in and around the school, before getting away by discarding his rifle and ammunition and blending in with fleeing students.  Cruz was arrested by police at 3:41 PM, as he walked down the street about a mile away from the school.

  • Invite student thoughts and feelings about the quote, when they know what it was in reference to.

Kasky followed the earlier quote up by saying: “We need to take it into our hands.”

  • Invite student thoughts and feelings about that.

Then explain that students in Parkland, Florida, did exactly that. They spoke to journalists, wrote op eds, organized walk outs, vigils, rallies, and protests and turned to social media to advocate for more gun control.  They are supported by others in their community and beyond—young people and adult allies, including parents and educators.

Gun reform student protest in DC
White House protest by Teens for Gun Reform, by Lorie Shaull


Student Voices

Show the following video:

And/or invite some volunteers to read some or all of the Florida student voices quoted below out loud. (The voices are included in Part 1 of this pdf handout.)

David Hogg (17):  "I don't want this to be another mass shooting. I want this to be the last mass shooting. Everybody is getting used to this, and that's not okay .... what happens when you do that is children are dying and they will continue to die unless we stop it, stand up, and take action.  … "We need action from our elected officials and we need action from the civil public because without that, this is going to happen again."

Delaney Tarr (17): “I’ve had enough of thoughts and prayers, the hashtags, all of it. We need to make actual change. There’s only so many words that can be said before things move on, before the press gets tired of seeing us on the news, before people just change the channel. This will not be forgotten.  We will not be silenced. We are going to make a change.”

Carly Novell (17):  “I think it’s great that they’re saying ‘thoughts and prayers,’ but it doesn’t do anything. And after every single shooting that’s what they say over and over again, but nothing ever changes.  It has to be political because this happened because of guns, this happened because of the relaxed gun laws that we have.”

Sam Zeif (18): “I lost a friend, he doesn’t have a voice anymore. So I need to make sure that I use mine to make sure he didn’t die for nothing. He died for change.”

Sabrina Yuen (senior): “I’m not trying to put a positive spin on the fact that this town just took 17 bullets to the heart, but I’ve never seen this many people stop sending thoughts and prayers and start saying we’re going to show people in the midterm elections… it’s enough and people know it’s enough.”

Emma Gonzalez (Senior): “We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks. Not because we're going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting. … we are going to change the law.”

Amy Campbell-Oates (16): “We agreed that our politicians have to do more than say thoughts and prayers. We want voters to know that midterms are coming up. Some of us can’t vote yet but we want to get to the people that can to vote in common sense laws, ban assault rifles and require mental health checks before gun purchases.”



Pair Share

Ask students to turn to a partner to discuss their thoughts and feelings about what students in Florida are saying about the shooting and what they are calling for in response.


Whole Group Discussion

Bring students back to the large group to share out what they discussed in their pairs.  Continue the dialogue by asking some or all of the following questions:

  • How do you think these students are feeling? 
  • What are they doing with their feelings?
  • What is their goal?


Turning Despair, Grief and Anger Into Action

Toward the end of the New York Times video (above) Carly Novel, a 12th grade student from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School says,  “I am upset, but I’m like using that to talk about gun control and to talk about what happened.”

Invite students to either read out loud the following quotes or read them quietly by themselves. (These are included in Part 2 of this pdf.)

Sophie Whitney (18) said on NPR: "Of course we're all heartbroken, but we can't let the 17 people die for nothing. We have to make something good out of their death."

Emma Gonzalez (Junior) “addressed a gun control rally in Ft. Lauderdale the Saturday after the shooting:  “Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it's time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”

Ariana Ali has turned her anger into activism. "It could have been avoided.  … Me and my friends are organizing a gun-violence protest in the city of Parkland right now."  The group of friends have also called Parkland's mayor, launched a hashtag — #NeverAgain — and gotten in touch with state legislators. "We are going to go to Tallahassee to talk about what we've seen," Ali said.

Cameron Kasky (17) “is angry. He's angry because when he goes back to school, 17 people won't be there, 17 people who were killed in a mass shooting in Florida on Wednesday. He told NPR: “Unfortunately it took it hitting me right at home for me to want to do something about it, and I'm not going to stop.  … our lawmakers Rick Scott and Marco Rubio … have the blood of 17 people on their hands, and we are not apologizing for telling them that they're gone. ….  It's time to put lawmakers in positions who are not taking money from the NRA and are not fostering and promoting this gun culture that's allowing things like this to happen …. “

Emilie Smith (18), a senior at a school 10 minutes from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, said in an interview as she and a friend were on their way to donate blood: "I've seen these shootings happen my whole life. I've grown up with them. I remember Sandy Hook. I remember every single one. ... Every time, about a week or more later, I don't see any more trending tweets, I don't see anyone talking about it. It's devastating."  But now — with students' protests and criticism of public officials — "it's almost like the kids are trying to step in for the adults," .... "I don't think children should have to bear that."  Smith is 18 now, and she said her dad is going to take her to register to vote. Her friends are all turning 18 soon, too. "The next chance I get to vote in this state, I'm definitely going to do that," Smith said. "We're definitely all going to vote."

Emma Gonzalez (Junior) later added:  “A lot of people are saying that these kids are activists, these kids need to be politicians, …. But a lot of us are just … students who figured there's strength in numbers. And we want to be sure that we end up having our message sent across. And then we can get back to our normal everyday lives, you know."

Having read the quotes ask students to discuss them using some or all of the following questions:

  • What are the feelings expressed in these quotes?
  • What are students doing with their feelings?
  • What are your thoughts and feelings about that?



Stand Under: Action for Change

Post these signs around the room. (The text for each sign is below.)  Each sign is a different kind of action that students in Parkland, Florida (and beyond) have taken to advocate for gun control.

1. Social Media Campaigns  
A social media campaign is a coordinated effort using one or more social media platforms to promote ideas.

2. Traditional media outreach
Media outreach is about drawing media attention to the ideas the students in Parkland want to promote in the traditional print and broadcast media.

3. Walkouts
A walkout is the act of leaving a place (often a workplace) in protest or to strike.  A strike is an organized refusal to work, typically in an attempt to gain concessions of some sort.

4. Lobbying
Lobbying means to seek to influence someone (often a public official) on an issue.

5. Marches & Rallies
A march is an act or instance of marching as a protest or demonstration.
A rally is a mass meeting of people protesting or showing support for a cause.

6. Getting Out the Vote
Getting out the vote describes efforts aimed at increasing the voter turnout in elections.

7. Boycotts & Divestments
A boycott is a concerted refusal to have dealings with (a country, a state, a person, a store, an organization, etc.), usually to express disapproval or to force acceptance of certain conditions. 

Split your class into six smaller groups. Invite group 1, to stand by sign 1, group 2 to stand by sign 2, group 3 by sign 3 and so on. 

When students are standing by their sign, provide them with the handout accompanying each sign.  (All 7 handouts are here, and also included below. Also included is an eighth handout, which is to accompany an extension activity.) After students have read their handout, invite them to answer the following questions in their small groups: 

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about the various examples of action(s) taken by Parkland students?
  • What other examples of this action have you heard about since the shooting in Parkland?
  • What kind of impact do you think this kind of action has?  On whom?  Why?
  • Who needs to be involved for this action to have the biggest impact?
  • How can that impact of this action be amplified?
  • What skills are needed for this action to be successful?

Next, invite students to leave their handout by their sign, then move clockwise around the room to the next sign. There again, they’ll read the sign’s accompanying handout before discussing the same set of questions. If time allows, invite students to move clockwise around the room to the next sign one or two more times, read the handout and discuss the questions before bringing the groups back as a whole class.

Back in the large group, invite students to share some of the thoughts and feelings that were discussed in their small groups, but more than that, what did they learn about the students in Parkland and beyond and what they’re doing with their grief and anger. 

  • Why is this concerted effort so important now? 
  • What would happen if students took time to grieve and process their feelings first, and then decide to take action a month or year from now?
  • Why not focus on just one of the actions in the “Stand Under” activity?
  • What have students seen happen with other mass shootings?
  • Does it matter who the messenger is?  Why?
  • Does it matter what the message is?  Why?
  • Does it matter how the message is conveyed?  Why?
  • How does ally-ship fit into this?  (see activity below)


Extension Activity: Exploring Ally-ship

Invite students by themselves to read Handout #8 (Ally-ship: Ripples Across the Nation).  In pairs have them discuss:

  • What are your thoughts and feelings about this reading?
  • What else have you heard about student activism in Parkland and beyond, since the shooting on Valentines Day?
  • How do you feel about the actions Parkland students have used so far? 
  • How can ally-ship support the efforts of students so far?




Choose one of these options:

  • Ask students to share: What is one thing you might want to say to the Parkland students based on today's lesson?
  • Ask students to share: What did you learn about the actions of students in Parkland, FL, and their impact to date? 
  • Ask students to share their thoughts and feelings about this statement by Martin Luther King, Jr.:
    “As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation — either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”



Also see this pdf version of the 8 handouts below. 

Handout 1:
Social Media Campaigns  

“Shortly after the shooting, Cameron Kasky, a junior at the school, and a few friends started a “Never Again” campaign on Facebook that shared stories and perspectives from other students who survived the rampage.”

At 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, for example, thousands of students tweeted the hashtag #neveragain in an attempt to galvanize a nation-wide conversation about gun control.

Cameron Kasky … said the group's aim is to "create a new normal where there's a badge of shame" on politicians accepting donations from gun lobbyists.  "My message for the people in office is: You're either with us or against us. We are losing our lives while the adults are playing around," he told CNN.  The group is encouraging other students around the country to join with them and protest - a movement that is already happening online.

Brendan Duff is a college student who went to school at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. He's come home to help manage the new movement's digital campaign. He says the response has been overwhelming, with hundreds of messages per minute pouring in. "People all over the country want to help. Social media is honestly the best way to reach not only everyone in this country I think, but definitely this generation," Duff says.

“These online outcries are already crystallizing into real-world organization. A new Twitter account called @Studentswalkout has posted about a nationwide student protest sometime next week.


Handout 2:
Traditional media outreach

At a picnic table in this city park a short drive from their school, the kids have set up a kind of media center. They're fielding calls from news outlets all over the country and also from community organizers who want to help by donating or volunteering. This kind of activism feels really different, compared with past mass shootings.  The kids here say in part it's because the victims are old enough to have a voice. "After what happened in Newtown, those kids were too young to speak out against what happened and to really even maybe even understand what happened," says Chris Grady, age 18, also a senior and a survivor.  "We want to be the voices not only for them but for any student or teacher affected by acts of cowardice like this," he adds.

[On NBC’s Meet the Press] students who escaped the deadly school shooting in Florida focused their anger … at President Donald Trump, contending that his response to the attack has been needlessly divisive.  “You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us,” said David Hogg, a 17-year-old student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida …

[On Face the Nation] Marjory Stoneman Douglas students David Hogg, Alex Wind, Emma Gonzalez, and Cameron Kasky discuss what lawmakers need to do to prevent another tragedy like the one in Parkland, Florida this week.

A student who survived the mass shooting at a Florida high school this week called for Americans to take action on gun control in an op-ed Friday.  Cameron Kasky, a 17-year-old junior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, wrote in an op-ed for CNN that he and his brother were trapped in the school during the shooting. “Though we made it home, 17 people didn't. Those 17 people were murdered on the grounds of a school that has always felt like the safest place to be in a town that's been called the safest town in Florida,” Kasky wrote.  The teenager called for Americans “to take action now,” after the shooting.  “Why? Because at the end of the day, the students at my school felt one shared experience — our politicians abandoned us by failing to keep guns out of schools,” he wrote.


Handout 3:

“These online outcries are already crystallizing into real-world organization. A new Twitter account called @Studentswalkout has posted about a nationwide student protest sometime next week.

The Women's March youth branch, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — the site of the Valentine's Day attack in Parkland that killed 17 people — and a Connecticut student who lives a short drive from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 26 people were killed in 2012, are all working to take hold of the national conversation with a series of events. It will begin with the Women's March EMPOWER branch, which is dedicated to youth-led advocacy. The group has called for "students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies" to take part in a national school walkout on March 14.  The goal is for students and staff across the country to walk out of their classrooms for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. "to protest Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods," the organization said in a statement


“I felt like it was our time to take a stand,” said Lane Murdock, 15, of Connecticut. “We’re the ones in these schools, we’re the ones who are having shooters come into our classrooms and our spaces.”  Murdock, who lives 20 miles (32 km) from Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 children and six adults were shot to death five years ago, drew more than 50,000 signatures on an online petition on Sunday calling on students to walk out of their high schools on April 20.  Instead of going to classes, she urged her fellow students to stage protests on the 19th anniversary of an earlier mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.


Handout 4:



Florida lawmakers will experience the Parkland students' political motivation firsthand when they arrive at the state Capitol on Wednesday to speak to members of the Legislature.  Ryan Deitsch, 18, a senior planning to make the six-hour trip, says organizers have arranged buses to transport about 100 people, students and chaperones, to the capital. They'll travel Tuesday night and plan to address senators Wednesday morning and representatives that afternoon. The plan is to split up into teams of three to five students and visit with legislators individually, he said.  Deitsch concedes that while the students are educated, they're still high schoolers, so listening to the legislators will be an important component of the meetings. The students don't have all the answers, he said, so it's important for them to understand what lawmakers feel is actually feasible, in terms of solutions.

“[Emma] Gonzalez added that the student activists from Parkland want to have conversations about guns with President Donald Trump, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Gov. Rick Scott, also a Republican. “We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this….”

“A week after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Fla., high school, President Trump hosted survivors, parents and teachers from that and other recent school shooting tragedies for an emotional, nearly 90-minute listening session at the White House Wednesday.  Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos asked for feedback on how to prevent future school shootings and increase safety at the nation's schools. Suggestions were varied, ranging from ways to provide more and better security at schools, taking action about the role that mental health plays in school shootings, raising the age to purchase rifles and strengthening background checks.”

She can’t vote, but maybe politicians should be listening — given her growing social media audience. A sixteen-year-old survivor of the Parkland school shooting has taken to Twitter to demand more from politicians than just “thoughts and prayers.”  The Twitter user @Sarahchad, who identifies herself as a student at Stoneman Douglas, tweeted directly to President Trump on Friday, inviting him to speak with her about gun control in person.


Handout 5:
Marches & Rallies

We’ve had enough. Thoughts and prayers are not enough to honor the victims of gun violence. What we need now is action.  On March 24, 2018, students will rally in Washington D.C and in local communities across the country to demand action from our leaders. Join us in the March For Our Lives, as we fight for an America that is free from gun violence.

March 24th in every single city. We are going to be marching together as students begging for our lives. This isn’t about the GOP, this isn’t about the Democrats, this is about the adults.  We feel neglected and at this point, you’re either with us or against us. …. At this point any politician on either side, who’s taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this. And one of the things we’re trying to do here is … create a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s … accepting money from the NRA no matter where they are.  Because at the end of the day the NRA is fostering and promoting this gun culture in which people like Nikolas Cruz can gun down 17 innocent lives in our school.”

Teen survivors of the shooting massacre at a Florida high school this week were among the speakers at a rally for firearm-safety legislation that drew a passionate, sign-waving crowd of hundreds of gun control supporters [outside the courthouse] in Fort Lauderdale.  Emma Gonzalez, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School where 17 students and staff were killed Wednesday, wiped tears as she urged the audience at the Saturday rally to fight for firearms restrictions to help prevent further mass shootings. … like other students who spoke at the rally said the time for talk is over and now elected officials must take action or the public will.  “If all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers then it’s time for victims to be the change we need to be,” Gonzalez said.


Handout 6:
Getting Out the Vote

Delaney Tarr will turn 18 in July, old enough to vote in the 2018 midterms. “I’m so ready to vote,” she said, “and people keep saying that ‘you guys need to go out there and vote,’ but most of us that are speaking are not legally old enough to vote.” 

“We are just waiting for that moment that we can,” she added.

[Lane] Murdock lives just 20 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Murdock wants to give teens, who she says aren't represented because they can't vote, a voice and a platform. "We want this day to be a visual and vocal representation of the teen population's desire to speak," she said. "At the end of the day, we're the ones who are being hurt in our schools."  

Another student from the high school, David Hogg, urged the crowd: “Get out there and vote.”  Even beyond voting, Hogg said, "Run for office.'

Another student tells NPR this campaign isn't just focused on rallies and social media. It's also about the midterm election. A lot of high school kids are 18 years old or will turn 18 before the November election.  "Our kids are dying and no one is doing anything about it," she says. "Everyone's going to vote."

“Participants are also coming together to register voters at various marches, to ensure that outrage today will translate to high turnout during November’s midterm elections.”






On Saturday, [Douglas student David Hogg] … took to social media to ask tourists to boycott the state of Florida as a spring break destination unless state legislators make a more concerted effort on gun control legislation. “Let’s make a deal DO NOT come to Florida for spring break unless gun legislation is passed,” Hogg wrote … on Twitter, adding that maybe politicians will “listen to the billion dollar tourism industry in FL.” In a follow-up tweet six hours later, Hogg suggested that people travel to Puerto Rico instead and help bolster the island’s economy as it continues to recover from Hurricane Maria. “It’s a beautiful place with amazing people,” Hogg wrote. “They could really use the economic support that the government has failed to provide.”


David Hogg …, continued to call out companies that offer special deals to NRA members through Friday afternoon, asking Twitter users to join a social media campaign against partnering companies with the hashtag #BoycottNRA. On his Twitter account, David highlighted corporations that incentivize NRA membership with discounts.



Tweet 1



Tweet 2




One by One, Companies Cut Ties with the NRA.  As a groundswell grows against the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of last week's school massacre in Parkland, Fla., several businesses say they are ending their partnerships with the gun advocacy group.  The brands — ranging from insurance companies to airlines to rental car agencies — announced their decisions on social media, many apparently in direct response to tweets demanding change under the trending hashtag #boycottNRA.  Activists are seeking to name and shame business affiliates of the group.





Ally-ship:  ripples across the nation

Ally-ship: Taking on the struggle as your own.

At rallies across the country, students made pleas for gun control and declared that while they might not be old enough to vote, they were old enough to change society.

Here are excerpts from news stories about the students' actions. 

  • A crowd of students stood on the steps of the squat, red-brick public library in Toms River, N.J., on Monday, a school holiday, to express their solidarity with the fallen Parkland students and teachers.
  • In Chicago, students from the South Side, where gun violence has been a problem, began organizing to demand gun control legislation.
  • In Battle Creek, Mich., dozens of students walked out of Harper Creek High School on Tuesday to protest gun violence in schools.
  • And in Bakersfield, Calif., about a dozen students and 80 adults joined a protest on Monday. “Listening to how worried my mother was dropping me off Friday morning after the shooting was one of the worst things I’ve had to listen to in a while,” Lucy Brown, a member of the Bakersfield High School Young Democrats Club who helped organize the protests, told

A group of Washington, D.C., teenagers staged a “lie-in” outside the White House on Monday …. The students, with Teens for Gun Reform, took turns lying down for three minutes to symbolize “how quickly” the organization says suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz could have legally purchased the gun he allegedly used to kill 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School ….  “We have organized this protest in solidarity with all of those who were affected by the horrific school shooting in Florida,” the organization, which was formed following last week’s massacre, said in a statement posted on its Facebook page. “We call on President Trump and leaders from both parties to finally act in the interest of America’s youth and end these tragic mass shootings.

The actor George Clooney and his wife, Amal, said Tuesday that they would donate $500,000 to a nationwide protest against gun violence planned for next month by the Stoneman Douglas High students. The announcement inspired similar gifts from other big-name Hollywood figures, including the producer Jeffrey Katzenberg and his wife, Marilyn, Oprah Winfrey, and Steven Spielberg and his wife, Kate Capshaw.


Parkland students are asking for allies to join the following marches and walkouts.

March 14, 2018: National School Walkout
The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group is planning a national school walkout on March 14, 2018, according to the group’s website. At 10 a.m. in every time zone, organizers are encouraging teachers, students, administrators, parents and allies to walk out for 17 minutes — one for every person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

March 24, 2018: March For Our Lives
On March 24, 2018, student organizers, including those from Parkland, are planning March For Our Lives, a march in Washington, D.C. to call for school safety and gun control. “The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues,” according to their website. “No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.”

April 20, 2018: National High School Walkout
A growing movement titled #NationalSchoolWalkout is being called for by Connecticut student Lane Murdock and others. Murdock lives 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School, according to NBC News. In December 2012, 20 students and six staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook.  The plan calls for high school students to walk out on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. No time has been specified yet. The plans are currently being housed on Twitter along with a petition page.