Iowa City students and community respond to Parkland mass shooting

After 17 teens like them were murdered in the latest school shooting, Iowa City high school students walked to the ped mall, calling for action.


Lily Smith

Iowa City High School and Southest Junior High School students protest on the Pentacrest on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. The protest was sparked after news of another school shooting, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL on, Feb. 14. (Lily Smith/The Daily Iowan)

Aadit Tambe and Sarah Watson

In wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Florida, the Iowa City community reacts with protest, concern, and reflection. From Iowa City School District officials reflecting on safety protocols to local students participating in a walkout, the impact from this national tragedy has been felt locally.

March in protest of lack of regulation

In response to the Feb. 14 Parkland shooting, students of City High, West High, and Southeast Junior High coordinated a walkout and march Monday to the Old Capitol in opposition of current gun laws.

The walkout began at City High at 11 a.m., when students marched carrying posters and placards denouncing gun violence and chanting slogans such as “The NRA’s got to go.”

Approximately 250 students were at the Old Capitol by 11:35 a.m., expressing the insecurity they feel with the current gun laws.

“It is important to me as an African American; every day I go to school, I feel safe,” said Samba Traore, a 17-year-old student. “And that there are [perpetrators] in the world that may get [in schools] worries me,”

Some were marching against congressmen and -women in office who disagree with their gun views.

“There is always a sense of randomness felt. That’s the thing about gun violence, there is no way of predicting it,” City High senior Eden Knoop said. “I think it’s ridiculous to have such a vocal, rich minority have say over our lives — how much are our lives worth? We need to get out there and do something.”

A seventh-grader held a poster that read, “I’m skipping school for gun control.”

The student said she feels terrified hearing what goes on in other schools, and she hopes Monday’s protest may help students’ voices become heard.

“We are protesting gun [violence] and the unrestricted [use of firearms] in our country,” City High Class President and senior Teagan Roeder said. “We want to bring awareness and express how angry and disturbed we are by the shootings that are happening constantly. Because it could be us.”

Schools reflect on security and safety plans

In a statement released by the Iowa City School District, officials were prompted “to reflect on the safety measures that we have in place.”

The entrances of schools are secured with various measures, and the district has an emergency plan and provides emergency training for staff, according to the statement.

On Feb. 15, a day after the Florida shootings that killed 17, legislation to require schools to implement a security plan advanced in the Iowa Senate.

An estimated 20 percent of Iowa schools don’t have such security plans in place, according to the legislation. Schools must include scenarios for such dangers as school shootings and natural disasters but are not limited to them.

City High student Maya Durham said she hadn’t participated in a school-wide active shooter drill or training since elementary school, although teachers are trained in the event of an intruder.

“When other people have asked teachers what to do at City High, the teachers say run as far and as fast as you possibly can,” Durham said. “And another teacher has a very intricate plan of blockading his door with his desk. That’s the most we’ve ever been told, and you kind of have to ask.”

She noted, however, in a case such as the Parkland shooting, where the alleged shooter was a former student, the intruder would then know the details of the security plans and where to go to find more victims.

RELATED: Parkland shooting survivors speak out, demand change on social media

“Nikolas Cruz — they said he was the one who people always joked about, who would shoot up the school, and there are jokes like that being made at City High, and it’s so terrifying to think there might be truth in that,” Durham said. “I hope that no one ever wants to do that, and I don’t think anyone, at least that I know, would be able to do that, but obviously there’s always that fear.”

For longtime Iowa City parent and City High PSTO leader Julie Eisele, in the last 12 years, she said, the security landscape in her kid’s local high school has changed dramatically.

“I used to be able to walk into the front door of any school. No one stopping me, no security stopping me,” Eisele said. “That is very different now.”

For Miriam Timmer-Hackert, the mother of two at Northwest Junior High and Coralville Central, she said she’d rather see the school invest in more counseling rather than arming teachers, increasing security personnel, or taking time to train students in an active-shooter situation.

“Teachers have so much they’re expected to do with the kids, they don’t have any time to waste,” Timmer-Hackert said. “I would rather see the teachers doing circle time and connecting with the kids so they know if any of them have emotional needs that aren’t being met.”