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After Parkland Massacre, Friday’s Student-Led March Across Flagler Beach Bridge Aims for Solidarity of the Possible

| March 1, 2018

The social media postings, outlining the Flagler County high school students' aims, that began circulating quickly this week ahead of Friday evening's march from Wadsworth park. Click on the image for larger view.

The social media postings, outlining the Flagler County high school students’ aims, that began circulating quickly this week ahead of Friday evening’s march from Wadsworth park. Click on the image for larger view.

Tyler Perry, president of the Student Government Association at Flagler Palm Coast High School, was looking for means to express student reactions to the massacre at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, but in a way that would bring awareness to local students’ concerns: to make them feel safe, nurtured, accepted.

Perry wasn’t looking for political shock but to “inspire local change,” as the social media banner he started circulating put it: more school deputies, “spreading positivity,” battling rumors that lead to false alerts on campus, spreading a “see something, say something curriculum,” requiring active shooter training for all on campus, and developing a sense of school community that prevents any single student from feeling isolated to the point of turning into a Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old shooter at Parkland whose history was draped in red flags.

Perry met with School Board member Colleen Conklin to bounce off ideas and develop connections, met with Superintendent James Tager, met and spoke with others in the community, and within days the plan for Friday evening’s student-led march from Wadsworth Park to Veterans Park in Flagler Beach was born. It quickly picked up interest and attention—some of it nervous attention—on social media, with Matanzas High School joining in, along with support from faculty and administrators.

The nervousness was in part tied to the fact that the marchers would literally be descending from the bridge onto First Friday in Flagler Beach.

“Initially there was some worry in the community, ‘oh my god they’re going to hijack this event,” Perry said in an interview this morning. “I want to make it clear, we have no intention of hijacking the event.”

Tyler Perry, president of the Flagler Palm Coast High School Student Government Association and the organizer of Friday's march, outside the National Gallery in Washington. (Sawyer Perry)

Tyler Perry, president of the Flagler Palm Coast High School Student Government Association and the organizer of Friday’s march, outside the National Gallery in Washington. (Sawyer Perry)

Rather, the students will be given 10 minutes around 7:10 p.m., during the live band’s intermission, to take the stage, read the names of the 17 victims of the Parkland massacre, and speak their minds, framed in large part by the themes Perry laid out.

“We believe that to make the most positive change we need to do it in a positive, peaceful manner, we don’t want to make any enemies in Flagler, we don’t want anyone to think we’re against them,” he said.

That put a lot of people at ease and convinced David Ayres, the general manager at Flagler Broadcasting, whose Cool 100.9 sponsors First Friday’s music at Veterans Park, to incorporate the marchers into the event. “The intention wasn’t to be disruptive, but to be heard,” is the message Ayres got, he said. “It’s a public park, it’s a public gathering, so they put some thought into it, they have a message they want to be heard, and they want to be heard before the end of the session in Tallahassee. So they’re hoping for media coverage which is good.”

They’ll be getting it, including through an appearance by Perry live on Ayres’s Free For All Friday show on WNZF Friday morning (Perry will step out of class to call into the show). “I don’t really see it as political, I see it as voicing opinion. There’s going to be a few hundred kids marching, I’m sure they have differing opinions themselves,” Ayres said. “Personally I’ll be curious to see what they want us all to walk away thinking from this.”

The Flagler Beach city administration and police got in on the plan, with Flagler Beach Police Chief Matthew Doughney preparing a plan to ensure that the students are safe along the streets and crossing them. What the students may say on their signs is not a concern.

“I will be joining the students, because I think this entire county should join them, I think every single person should stand with them.”

School officials see it as a non-school event. “That is a student-led initiative,” said Superintendent Jim Tager today, “and one thing that I would tell you is that I’ve been very, very impressed by the students from Douglas High School with their stance and the way they are able to articulate their ideas, their intelligence. Certainly young people have a lot to say that’s of value, and I’ve listened to our students, I think they’ve conducted themselves in a respectful way. It speaks well of them, of their families an upbringing, and our education system.”

Tager sees concrete possibilities coming out of the initiative, such as incorporating the “see something, say something” in Freshman Success classes. If he had a recommendation for the students, it was to “be respectful” of the memory of the Stoneman Douglas victims. Will he be at the march? “Haven’t really decided what I’ll be doing Friday night yet, couldn’t tell you either way on that one.”

Conklin, the school board member, intends very much to be there: she’s been promoting the march on her social media accounts, where conversations and debates resulting from the Parkland shooting have gotten so intense that she had to close one thread after it generated upwards of 200 comments and very high decibels. She doesn’t see the march devolving into that sort of tenor.

“I respect the students’ right to share their perspective on this issue and I am extremely proud of the way they have handled themselves,” Conklin said, addressing not only the coming march but the way students at Matanzas and FPC have, in fact, already demonstrated, in brief self-controlled spurts. “I think they have a powerful, powerful voice that should be respected in this conversation and in this space, and I think they have every right to share that in a constructive way.”  Conklin added: “I will be joining the students, because I think this entire county should join them, I think every single person should stand with them, show respect to Parkland as another community, show that Flagler County stands with Parkland, and that all of us, all of us, together, should never have to witness this occurring again in our country.”

colleen conklin

School Board member Colleen Conklin. (© FlaglerLive)

The nervousness over the march was exemplified by Flagler Beach City Commissioner Rick Belhumeur, who started a social media debate of his own on one page where he described the marchers as potentially “crashing” First Friday—and doing so on the Flagler County Democrats’ page. “What does Flagler Beach have to do with safety in public schools?” he asked. “This IS a peaceful community event hoping to keep the community peaceful,” came one answer.

“The thing that put a little scare in me was the way that flier was put together, that they were going to come over and demand action,” Belhumeur later said in an interview. “It’s morally not right, there’s an event going on and if they’re invited, which they have been, now, and they worked out the term, then that’s good.” He added, referring to Larry Newsom, the Flagler Beach city manager: “Of course I believe in their cause but there’s a way to do it. It’s like Larry said, if we knew it was something they wanted to do we’d give them the whole park and let them make a day of it, but to come in and impose themselves I guess is another way of putting it.”

But he got no disagreement from Conklin or fellow-City Commissioner Jane Mealy when they said they’d rather the march did not have political overtones.

“I’m all in favor of what they’re doing,” Mealy, a former teacher, said. “Those kids in Parkland, they have amazed me. Having been a teacher for so long I’ve never met a group of kids like that so articulate and so strong, so I was not opposed to the march.  My feeling about First Friday is it’s such a homey community event that to politicize it, I thought we needed to be kind of careful about that, and I didn’t know how rowdy the kids would be and things like that. Not to hush them up, because I certainly believe in that and I certainly believe in their cause. In sum, she said, “I was afraid of it becoming a big uproar, because I don’t know how many pro-gun people we have in town, quite a few for sure, and I didn’t want it to become a pro-gun, anti-gun, on a First Friday.”

Conklin says marches like that are part of a context that’s making the sort of difference that hasn’t been seen in the past. Angry as the Parkland massacre made her, she insists that the aftermath has been more of a turning point in the gun debate because partisanship is giving way to a more human debate.

 “This isn’t just about removing guns. This isn’t about the Second Amendment,” Conklin said. “

This is about a very complex issue that includes, yes, access to guns, it’s about mental health, it’s about a generation that has become de-sensitized to violence, it’s about psychotropic drugs, it’s about the breakdown of the family, it’s about social media, it’s about isolation, it’s about bullying and cyberbullying and being 24 hours connected. It’s not one thing that’s going to fix it. I do give it to the students, because the students, especially those from Douglas that have come out to share their voice, and because they are so close to voting age, you have legislators that are finally listening that should have been listening for a long time. I think they are concerned that these young people are going to vote, and they are going to demand to be heard. I think it’s very different.”

Many of those crossing the Flagler Beach bridge Friday evening will be voting in their first election come summer and November.

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33 Responses for “After Parkland Massacre, Friday’s Student-Led March Across Flagler Beach Bridge Aims for Solidarity of the Possible”

  1. Concerned res says:

    Proud of our kids!

  2. Marlee says:

    The students are the leaders.

  3. Layla says:

    This is completely political and paid for with your tax dollars.

  4. PCer says:

    Good for them!

  5. terminus says:

    You know, it’s great they feel a sense of activism now – where was it in January, when a school in Kentucky was shot up? In November of last year? Activism isn’t convenient, it is a life-long commitment. It is a fight many people bow out of when they realize nothing will ever change. Google a list of school shootings – quite eye opening how far back school violence goes and that it is not a recent phenomena.

    In 1996, my school installed metal detectors. We had automatic locking doors. If you did not make it into the building by a certain time, you had to buzz on the intercom and the office secretary would let you in, escort you to the office, fill out some papers, and send you off to your class. They contacted the teacher of that class and if you didn’t show within a certain amount of time, they sent the school guards looking for you. Once, two boys got into a fist fight, one of the teachers came up, grabbed them both by the back of their necks, and pulled them apart. He and another teacher dragged them down to the office. Their parents? Applauded the teachers and didn’t admonish them. In my school, teachers had authority and could intervene and discipline students – and we listened because we knew what would come at home would be far worse. This was only 1996, not really that long ago considering, and it was in a small school up north far away from the cities nestled in a farm community.

    I’m going to say something that will anger many people but I blame the parents of this generation of students and those not far removed from school. Parents let their kids get away with everything! There is no discipline. No control. I see it in public places. It is this mentality of “I can do whatever I want,” that dissuades teachers and others from wanting to even try or get involved because parents will always insist their kids did no wrong and pass blame on the person trying to help. It’s a catch-22 because most teachers do want to help – and yes, I speak from experience having worked in education. I quit because the students were incorrigible and their parents even worse. Heaven forbid you try and make someone become a better person. It wasn’t worth it and made me miserable. I’m glad I no longer work in education because I would never carry a weapon into a classroom, nor would I drop down my body on top of a student during a hail of bullets and save their lives when I have my own family that would be affected if I died. Selfish? Maybe…but when people become teachers, they expect to return to their families at night, and not die protecting someone’s child. It is too much to ask of anyone in that capacity.

  6. Marlee says:

    terminus says:
    You sure do put everyone and everything in ONE box, don’t you?

  7. pinelakes79 says:

    “….and a little child will lead them.” Isaiah 11:6

  8. Outsider says:

    I am glad students are taking a stand. There should be changes made to school security. I have a feeling, however, it’s going to turn into a demand to ban this type of weapon or that, and the massive failure of the FBI, the Broward County sheriff’s office, and the role played by the ridiculous “Promise” program, where discipline was put on the the shelf in exchange for money will be ignored. You will lose me at that point. Otherwise, good luck with the march.

  9. Randy Jones says:

    I propose a 1% addition to the state sales tax that would be distributed proportionally to each school district in the state and must spent specifically on “hardening” our schools to protect the lives of our children. Let the current proposed legislation pay for additional law enforcement officers – the sales tax increase must be spent on other methods of “physically” securing the schools. SOS – Secure our Schools.

  10. Steve says:

    Very well said, Terminus. It has much to do with the breakdown of the family unit, the lack of morals and respect from both kids and their parents as well as a lack of respect for authority. It is more of a mental health issue than anything else. When the parents are called to the school because of the kids bad behavior, the parents support the kid, not the teacher or principal, who is the authority. How does that look in the eyes of the kid? As the kid grows up, the behavior worsens. Add bullying to the equation, and you have one messed up kid, hence the mental health issue. The parents must step up and discipline their children, teach them respect and good morals at a very early age.

  11. smarterthanmost says:

    @ Marlee,
    terminus, speaks the truth.

  12. Marlee says:

    Randy Jones says:
    sponsored bt the NRA!

  13. Tony says:

    If the students and parents are truly worried about security at the Flagler Palm Coast High School, then why do students refuse to wear their ID badges on campus which, by the way was approved by the School Board. Big problems sometimes can be solved with little solutions

  14. Born and Raised Here says:

    I’m all for the march, but young voices in Tallahassee, would have a bigger impact.

  15. Really says:

    While you are at it get rid of the druggies and pimps on campus

  16. Really says:

    Bravo terminus but most on deaf ears

  17. Mothersworry says:

    Good for the students!!!

    Maybe the adults/society who put the kids in a situation where they felt they had to march will LISTEN to the KIDS!!!

  18. layla says:

    People are listening to these kids, God Bless them.

    Here is the opinion of a teacher, if you want to read it.

    …“The current culture is the problem.”
    Florida’s Teacher of the Year Bluntly Writes WHY School Violence Is Out of Control

    February 19, 2018
    by Daisy Luther
    Kelly Guthrie Raley has been teaching for 20 years and currently educates kids at Eustis Middle School in Lake County, Florida. Just last month she was named the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.
    The day after the horrific shooting that took place at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she posted a rant on Facebook that has since gone viral. In the post, she talked about parental responsibility, compassion, and respect…and more than 823,000 people have “liked” the post and agreed with it, while more than 649,000 have shared it with others.
    Here’s what Mrs. Raley had to say:
    Okay, I’ll be the bad guy and say what no one else is brave enough to say, but wants to say. I’ll take all the criticism and attacks from everyone because you know what? I’m a TEACHER. I live this life daily. And I wouldn’t do anything else! But I also know daily I could end up in an active shooter situation.
    Until we, as a country, are willing to get serious and talk about mental health issues, lack of available care for the mental health issues, lack of discipline in the home, horrendous lack of parental support when the schools are trying to control horrible behavior at school (oh no! Not MY KID. What did YOU do to cause my kid to react that way?), lack of moral values, and yes, I’ll say it-violent video games that take away all sensitivity to ANY compassion for others’ lives, as well as reality TV that makes it commonplace for people to constantly scream up in each others’ faces and not value any other person but themselves, we will have a gun problem in school. Our kids don’t understand the permanency of death anymore!!!
    I grew up with guns. Everyone knows that. But you know what? My parents NEVER supported any bad behavior from me. I was terrified of doing something bad at school, as I would have not had a life until I corrected the problem and straightened my ass out. My parents invaded my life. They knew where I was ALL the time. They made me have a curfew. They made me wake them up when I got home. They made me respect their rules. They had full control of their house, and at any time could and would go through every inch of my bedroom, backpack, pockets, anything! Parents: it’s time to STEP UP! Be the parent that actually gives a crap! Be the annoying mom that pries and knows what your kid is doing. STOP being their friend. They have enough “friends” at school. Be their parent. Being the “cool mom” means not a damn thing when either your kid is dead or your kid kills other people because they were allowed to have their space and privacy in YOUR HOME. I’ll say it again. My home was filled with guns growing up. For God’s sake, my daddy was an 82nd Airborne Ranger who lost half his face serving our country. But you know what? I never dreamed of shooting anyone with his guns. I never dreamed of taking one! I was taught respect for human life, compassion, rules, common decency, and most of all, I was taught that until I moved out, my life and bedroom wasn’t mine…it was theirs. And they were going to know what was happening because they loved me and wanted the best for me.
    There. Say that I’m a horrible person. I didn’t bring up gun control, and I will refuse to debate it with anyone. This post wasn’t about gun control. This was me, loving the crap out of people and wanting the best for them. This was about my school babies and knowing that God created each one for greatness, and just wanting them to reach their futures. It’s about 20 years ago this year I started my teaching career. Violence was not this bad 20 years ago. Lack of compassion wasn’t this bad 20 years ago. And God knows 20 years ago that I wasn’t afraid daily to call a parent because I KNEW that 9 out of 10 would cuss me out, tell me to go to Hell, call the news on me, call the school board on me, or post all over FaceBook about me because I called to let them know what their child chose to do at school…because they are a NORMAL kid!!!!!
    Those 17 lives mattered. When are we going to take our own responsibility seriously? Guns aren’t the problem. The current culture is the problem

    It’s very important that we listen to everybody. These children are our most precious resource and so are our teachers.

  19. Diane says:

    I am all for change ….. A child’s safety is paramount . But let us not forget this is the same generation that eats tide pods and are very confused about what bathroom to use……….. let us proceed with caution and level minded thinkers .

  20. Nanci Whitley says:

    Ms. Raley, I appreciate all you do on a daily basis as a teacher, but I believe you are wrong in stating guns aren’t the issue.
    Studies show there’s as much mental illness in other developed countries, as well as school and family discipline issues, and dysfunctional families . The difference IS GUNS. Other countries don’t have them.

  21. Dave says:

    We need our kids in Tallahassee, Washington, its the kids who make the difference. Speak at first friday whether you are invited or not, Do not let our commissioners and the money they get from the NRA silence our student voice,FIGHT FOR WHAT IS RIGHT. Take this to the streets, commission meetings. Local sporting events, let yourselves be heard.

  22. Randy Jones says:

    Hey Marlee – Would you support a 1% state sales tax increase to protect the lives of our school children YES or NO?

  23. Young democrat says:

    Nanci Whitley I believe you are wrong, our country has always had guns and mass shootings weren’t a problem before but they are now….. Not due to guns but due to the state of our society. That’s like saying North Korea isn’t an issue but bikes are

  24. Fake says:

    Thanks for letting me know.

  25. gmath55 says:

    1% sales tax? NO! The parents who have children in the school should pay a fee for additional protection.

  26. Layla says:

    Randy Jones: Yes, I would support that. Our schools are an investment for the entire community.

  27. Jeb plugarski says:

    No, this was not paid for by anyone’s tax dollars. Strictly grass roots folks who care about safety.

  28. smarterthanmost says:

    Increase the sales tax, I think not. We all know how politicians and “earmarked” money works, it doesn’t. As much as this state makes off the lottery, there should be plenty of money to fund new security measures.

  29. knightwatch says:

    Hey, Layla…of course it’s political. It’s the country vs. the NRebublicAn Party. But, paid for with tax dollars?? Where did that come from? Are these Flagler high school kids paid actors? I don’t get it. Can you explain?

  30. Anonymous says:

    These kids need to fix their own problem….the Millennial’s…the ones who are doing the school shootings. These kids are so clueless. Ask them what the 2nd Amendment is and why we have it—bet half of them won’t even know. Kid’s shouldn’t be used as pawns–the parents of these kids had to be behind this. Ask today’s high school students how many of their friends use drugs—it will shock you. With drugs come guns…..Our prisons are full of 18-25 year olds.

  31. Randy Jones says:

    It is telling that subsequent to my posting here and on other stories on where I suggest we pay a SINGLE penny more in sales tax for every taxable item we purchase in Florida in an effort to secure our schools (S.O.S.) I have heard only crickets along with the occasional growl from some very old men that throw out the tired, lame comment, “HELL no – I don’t have any kids in school so why should I have to pay to protect school children from murderers?” That argument is not only disgusting to every reasonable human being, it is tantamount to saying, “I never call the police or fire department for help so why should I pay taxes that provide for those services?” Is this what our society has come to? Is the worth of a child’s life less than a penny? Telling, very telling and indicative of the self-inflicted misery of those who insist upon being a continuing part of the problem rather than a being part of the solution.

  32. Heike says:

    A zombie society- you don”t often get the zombie POV! Kinda interesting and yeah a little sad maybe! I think it would be weird though to have him accessing all those memories of Julie, from Perry, and then becoming friends with her. Does she know he, um, ate Perry? Seems awkward. :) I”ve heard of the movie I think, it”s vaguely familiar, but didn”t know there was a book. Sounds different but interesting too? Greg recently posted: Sunday Post #236

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