Student Activist On Guns In Schools

Mar 11, 2018
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Just after the shooting that took 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., senior Demetri Hoth was among the students there who took action. Here he is on CNN.

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DEMETRI HOTH: We just really want the lawmakers to understand the type of things that we went through by showing them that we're a united front and that we're not going to back down until change actually happens.

MONTAGNE: Now, almost four weeks later, that change is actually beginning to happen. In a move that amounted to a break with his longtime allies at the National Rifle Association, Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law new regulations on guns. The bipartisan bill, named for the Parkland school that inspired it, bans bump stocks, increases waiting periods, raises the buyer age limit to 21 and broadens the power of police to seize weapons. Governor Scott also called for more police officers in schools to protect students, but armed officers in schools are nothing new. And for students of color, it doesn't make school feel safer.

KAILA CAFFEY: Unfortunately, students of color are often targeted by police officers and tend to be victims of police violence.

MONTAGNE: Kaila Caffey is a senior at Central High School in Philadelphia. She says the issue got her attention when footage surfaced in 2016 of an officer restraining a student at a nearby school.

CAFFEY: He was put into a chokehold while attempting to use the bathroom without a hall pass.

MONTAGNE: Caffey is a member of the Philadelphia Student Union, PSU, which is advocating to remove police from schools. She and her fellow students are just as proactive as the students in Parkland. And though she's supportive of them, she says there's a difference in how the demands from the two groups are being received.

CAFFEY: As a woman of color and with PSU being a predominantly black organization, even in trying to make changes in our own district, we've received a lot of pushback.

MONTAGNE: The Philadelphia Student Union is forging ahead with a school walkout.

CAFFEY: The message that we're hoping to send is that our experience is very different. Students experience violence on a day-to-day basis in their schools. What they're doing now is not helping anybody. In fact, it's harming more students.

MONTAGNE: Student groups from two dozen schools in the Philadelphia area are signed up to participate in that walkout this coming Wednesday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.