FRANKFORT, March 20, 2018 — The Prichard Committee’s Student Voice Team brought together students from across the state eager to speak out about gun violence in the wake of school shootings in Kentucky and Florida. In addition to a rally on the steps of the state Capitol, the group organized an intergenerational teach-in to support participants to exchange experiences, information, and strategies for organizing others around influencing education policy.
With about 150 youth and adults participating in a legislative hearing room, the teach-in aimed to build capacity in emerging activists around school climate and safety issues at the local level.
Drawing on experience in conducting school climate audits and navigating the legislative process in recent years, the Student Voice Team designed the statewide events as a platform to express urgency around recent school violence and advocate for the role of students as partners in identifying solutions.
“The tragedies in Marshall County and Parkland have awakened us to the fact that when it comes to school safety, the status quo is unacceptable, and we have to be the change we want to see,” said Amanda Byerman, the Student Voice Team Teach-In coordinator and a senior at Henry Clay High School in Lexington. “We are constituents too. And just because many of us are too young to vote doesn’t mean we students can’t have a voice in the political process.”
The event was widely covered by Kentucky news media and featured members of the Student Voice Team as uniquely informed spokespeople.
“As a student, I refuse to remain silent until I know this will never happen again,” said Marshall County High junior Keaton Conner, speaking to the audience at the rally. Conner described her experience in the confusion after a student opened fire at the western Kentucky school in January, killing two classmates.
“It’s important for students to speak up and speak out. It’s powerful,” added Khamari Brooks, another rally speaker. Brooks was a freshman at Fern Creek High School in Louisville in 2014 when a student fired a gun, injuring another student. “The most uncomfortable conversations are the ones that are always the best and have the most meaning.”
Several Student Voice Team members followed up the Kentucky event by attending events in their local communities and a national March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Washington, D.C., protesting school shootings and urging youth participation in civic issues.
Learn more about the Student Voice Team’s work at prichardcommittee.org/student-voice/
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