Several students gathered at Parkway Northwest High school on Tuesday during an inaugural student forum to discuss the country’s issue surrounding gun violence.
The event, organized in partnership with Global Citizen, March for Our Lives and Cease Fire PA included at least six students from eight different schools and various community leaders.
Jeff Macfarland has been the school’s principal for about a year and a half. He believes this was the type of event students “deserved to be a part of” as the school is working to connect itself to social justice issues happening across the city and country.
“That’s why these events are so important,” he said. “It breaks down some of the assumptions, sometimes incorrect assumptions that people have and it allows them to really connect on such a beautiful, important and meaningful level.”
Macfarland said when students have that understanding then joint-led student action is then possible.
Terrance Pearson, an 11th grade student at Martin Luther King High School, was vocal about metal detectors and security guards being at the entrance of his school.
Sharing viewpoints with others from the area, he was surprised to hear students at other schools don’t have the same security measures as King.
“I think they got a chance to finally see and understand what we see from the students’ point of view and not the adults point of view,” he said. “A lot of Black students, when we spoke to Springfield High school, they are able to walk in like it’s their home and they could do what they want. But us, we are treated a certain way and I think that is how it has always been.”
His friend, Salim Dixon, felt the same way, and saw the conversation and case studies students were presented as helpful.
“Being able to hear other people’s opinions helped this program grow and help other people do something with this program,” she said.
Pearson said there are always groups like this, saying this is not the “first group, this is not the second group.” He thinks people have said what many of the students that day have said already, but wants to see results.
CeaseFire PA is working to push dialogue among students and their peers.
“In our view, we do a lot of work with students and talk to them about advocacy and give them statistics, information and tools so that they can advocate for themselves in their communities the way they want,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFire PA.
“Are metal detectors going to protect these suburban schools from school shootings? Maybe, but maybe there are other things we can do besides locking down our schools,” she said. “Maybe we can talk about access to guns, maybe we can talk about mental health support, warning signs, bullying, all those types of things. And maybe that will keep schools safer.”