116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
IOWA CITY — After students at South East Junior High and Iowa City High schools learned five people were killed in a shooting last month in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., they wanted to take action.
So Gigi Goodvin, 15, a freshman at City High, and Ace Drumbarger, 14, an eighth-grader at South East Junior High, organized a protest Thursday of gun violence. More than 50 students walked out of school about 11 a.m. to head — in below freezing temperatures for the 2-mile round trip — to the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa.
Goodvin read the names of each victim of the Nov. 19 shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs, a safe haven for people who are LGBTQ — lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.
Drumbarger, a transgender male, said it’s “really scary” to know people were targeted in a place they thought they were safe. “At any time, anywhere I go, I could be the one who doesn’t get to tell my mom, ‘goodbye,’” he said.
There have been 35 school shootings across the nation that resulted in injuries or deaths so far in 2022, according to Education Week. Throughout the United States this year, there have been 611 mass shootings, making 2022 the second worst year for gun violence in almost a decade.
Drumbarger recited the number of deaths in school shootings over the last several years, including Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May; Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018; and Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
Drumbarger said he flinches when he hears a door slam too hard or a balloon pop in school. Nearly every student has anxiety about a possible shooting at school, he said.
“No family should be missing a child at Christmas this year or have an extra chair at family meals,” Drumbarger said. “I pray for all out there dealing with the aftermath of gun violence.”
In an email to families earlier this week, City High Principal John Bacon said students have a right to protest, and the district honors their right to free speech.
“When a collective group, like our student body, takes interest in topics to help make a difference, we support them and want to work with them to do so in a positive and meaningful manner,” Bacon said in an email. “School is a great place for our students to learn about proper civil discourse, and our educators are poised to be mentors on these topics.”
Julia Fitzpatrick, 12, a seventh-grader at South East Junior High, said gun violence is “a really big problem.”
“Missing a couple hours of school is way less important than fighting for the right to live,” she said while holding a sign that reads “Strange, but people without guns rarely shoot anyone.”
Peter Brozene, 15, a freshman at City High, said he wants the students’ voices to be heard and is worried about the impact of guns. "We need to shape the world we want to live in,“ he said.
Scarlett Carino-Marek, 12, seventh-grader at South East, said it felt weird to “just leave school in the middle of the day, but it feels like we’re doing the right thing.”
The Iowa City school board Tuesday heard a presentation from IntelliSee, a surveillance company based in Coralville that uses artificial intelligence to continuously scan existing surveillance cameras for potential threats.
With the growing threat of gun violence, IntelliSee can create safer schools without adding more equipment, according to the presentation. For example, the technology could stop a potential catastrophe by detecting drawn weapons before they’re being used. It also could detect slip hazards before someone falls and help school officials react faster if they do.
The school board is expected to approve an agreement for a pilot program with IntelliSee piloting later this month.
President Joe Biden last week said he wants to sign into law a ban on high-powered or semi-automatic guns like an AR -15 that have the capacity to kill many people very quickly. But in a closely divided Congress, such a law is unlikely any time soon.
The Democratic-led House passed legislation in July to revive a 1990s-era ban on "assault weapons," with the president’s support.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
Comments: (319) 398-8411; firstname.lastname@example.org