Lockdown drills are not normal in other parts of the world, said Chippewa Middle School student Poppy Robertson to about 200 fellow students who participated in a student-led walkout April 20.

Robertson moved to the U.S. from England in 2015 and was excited to go to school in America. However, within her first two weeks of school, a lockdown drill was held and she was terrified. She had never heard of a lockdown drill before. 

“In U.S. schools, it is normal to go through drills and learn how to protect ourselves in case someone comes into the school with a weapon,” Robertson said. However, that was not normal in England or many other places in the world, she noted. 

“I believe it is time for a new normal.” 

Robertson, along with four other students, Ava Ernst, Mackenzie Dahl and Talia Moore, led students in a 17-minute walkout in memory of the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida shooting earlier this year and held on the 19th anniversary of the school shooting in Columbine, Colorado. The event was entirely student-led, but the students received permission from their principal, Robertson said. 

About 200 students carried various signs displaying their viewpoints and fears about school safety, such as “Your kid could be next,” and “18th-century laws cannot regulate 21st-century weapons.” 

“Guns don’t kill, people do,” chanted a smaller group of students in the back of the crowd. 

Ernst addressed that sentiment by noting that stricter gun regulations are really about people. “Contrary to popular belief, we are not anti-gun,” she said. “We want stricter background checks on people, not guns.” 

Robertson said in five years she plans to vote for changes in gun laws that will make schools and society safer. “Our destiny is created by our decision,” she noted. 

“What we are doing in our country isn’t working,” Ernst said. “Change is coming and we are that change.” 

Robertson told fellow students there are things they can do today to create a safe school. 

“We can, as kids, make sure everyone has a group of friends,” she said, encouraging fellow students to create an environment of acceptance, inclusion and respect at Chippewa. 

Students observed a moment of silence for lives lost in school shootings before heading back to class. 

Robertson said she and her friends were inspired to hold the event because they believe changes in school safety are possible. 

“In England, there have been no school shootings since 1996 when the Dunblane School massacre took place,” Robertson said. “It was where a gunman invaded a primary school in the small Scottish town of Dunblane, shooting and killing 16 young children and their teacher before turning a gun on himself. Following this tragic event, laws were changed and the UK now has some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world.”

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