MARYSVILLE – To paraphrase from the famous 1976 movie “Network,” Bailey Thoms and some other Marysville Getchell students are “as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
They are referring to school shootings.
To raise awareness for the need to protect students in school, Thoms is organizing a community rally Saturday starting at 9 a.m. at Comeford Park. It had to be moved for safety reasons from the intersection of Fourth Avenue and State Street, Thom said Friday.
While she will never forget the shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck, she said the latest tragedy in Parkland, Fla., has spurred her and the nation to speak out at the grassroots level, similar to the “me too” movement.
She and friends Mikala Dalton, Jael Kilroy, Julia Bartolone and Pauline Bordon started making signs for the rally Monday, under U.S. History teacher Marjorie Serge’s oversight.
Thoms said she has made 30 shirts for the rally. In the front is a target. In the back it asks, “Are We Next?” She admits the shirt is shocking, but that’s how students feel. “If we wore clothes on how we felt, this is what we would wear,” she said.
Thoms said she felt encouraged to do the rally when a fellow student said he thought about it all the time and was afraid every day. “It gave us all permission that it was OK to be afraid,” she said.
She also said she received a sign that she should do the rally when she was at Starbucks and received a message. It was about Zoe Gallaso, one of the victims of the M-P shooting. It was in honor of her 18th birthday. It asked for those who received it to do random acts of kindness for 18 days.
At the rally, Thoms said she wants churches, moms, teachers – everyone represented. Students are asked to wear white shirts, along with empty backpacks.
“This event will be supporting the fight against gun violence and a call for a better tomorrow,” she said, adding, “We just want to graduate.”
Not just guns
Thoms pointed out that the students are not entirely against guns. But they would like more background checks and gun restrictions. “Guns are too accessible,” she said.
Bordon added only adults should have access to guns. “There’s no reason” for kids to have them.
Mental exams also are important, Thoms said, adding mental health therapists are needed in schools, not just career counselors. “Someone needs to be there for them,” Bordon said.
“They’re not here to talk feelings,” Thoms said of counselors.
Teachers and guns
As to having some teachers with guns in school, as President Trump suggested, the five girls were uneasy about that.
They said some teachers have anger issues and others are irresponsible so they would be afraid a gun wouldn’t always be kept in a safe. They said while some students may feel safer, others would be on edge if they knew a gun was in class – even for protection.
However, they said if they didn’t know which teachers had guns that might work. They also said they would like more officers in schools and that they feel safe when the school resource officers carry guns.
Thoms said it would be OK if every school had only one entrance, and that it would have a metal detector, but she hopes it never reaches that point.
Bartolone said she attended a school like that when she lived in the Philippines. They also had to show I.D. and have their bags checked. “There were no school shootings there,” she said.
Why at school?
As to why there are so many shootings at schools, the girls had different ideas, but agreed it had to do with negativity. They said bullying isn’t about physical, attacks, but more about emotional attacks that make kids want to withdraw into their “own bubble,” Dalton said, adding, “They don’t want to feel judged.”
“It’s how you look,” Kilroy said.
“It’s not being noticed at all,” Bartolone said, adding she had bouts with depression and needed to seek help last year. “You’re nothing if you don’t have designer clothes.”
Cyberbullying is huge. “Online they can hide behind a screen,” Kilroy said.
Dalton said kids are too insecure. “It’s out of proportion now. They depend on other people for happiness.”
Too much is made of when couples break up. “It’s an embarrassment. People take sides,” Thoms said, with Bartolone adding, “They get mean.”
Thoms said some kids are picked on daily. “They feel everyone’s against them. It builds up,” she said.
Despite research to the contrary, the girls said they think violence in video games, TV and movies could contribute to the ease in which some deal with violence.
“Some try imitation to fit in,” Kilroy said.
“People react differently,” Bartolone said. Some may get their frustrations out playing a game, while others might become more aggressive.
As for the future, the girls said they want to do a better job with random acts of kindness.
Bartolone said people need to be encouraging. She said she will talk to someone and find out: “That person is amazing. They are worth as much and you are, and you’re worth a lot,” she said, adding people in groups need to get out of their comfort zones and talk to people they don’t know.