Roy Exum: Walk! What To Say

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There are high schools across America who are refusing to allow students to take part in today’s massive Student Walk-Out. There are some good reasons. As a principal in Idaho said, “If I was a shooter there would be no better time or opportunity.” And there are some bad reasons: “Our children are here to learn, not protest. Those who take part will receive demerits and this will go on their permanent record.”

I, on the other hand, am begging every child, every teacher, every cafeteria server, moms, dads, aunts, dogs and those on horseback to walk. No matter what school, regardless of threats, rules, or physical attacks, we’ve got to send a strong and emphatic message to those of our leaders who have done little or nothing in the last 20 years to protect our schools. We need to send an equally harsh memo to politicians that ‘Enough is enough!’

The plan is simple. A few minutes before 10 a.m., politely and without saying a word, walk outside and for 17 minutes you should walk around the building, the football field, the big maple tree at the end of the drive, wherever but stay on school grounds. Each person who walks will do so in – key word: ‘reverent’ -- memory of the attack exactly one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla., and each minute will be a solemn remembrance of the 17 defenseless students who were killed by a mentally-ill former student.

At exactly 10:17 a.m. you re-enter the building, and without uttering a sound, quietly return to your chair and resume your classwork.

Obviously this will be emotional because everyone who walks will defy the shooter – don’t ever let fear keep you from doing the right thing. It is also true some teenagers will walk today knowing there could be consequences. Don’t worry any reprisal is always toothless and, so help me, you’ll forget about it by this Friday. Today you walk with those exactly like you all over America and – remember – on April 20th there is another walk on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school massacre.

This is where I want to help. As one who attended five high schools while my parents never moved, I am “a master of the moment” when engaged by some furious teacher who, inevitably, wants me to help write her obituary 30 years later. Here’s how you fight back the smart way:

IF THREATENED WITH BEING PERMANENTLY EXPELLED: Look intently at whatever person of authority is ranting, allow them to finish speaking and calmly reply: “It’s been 19 years since Columbine and your kind is still singing the first verse. You are going to kick me out? Go ahead and start the paperwork.”

IF TOLD YOU ARE TO CALL YOUR MOTHER AND LEAVE SCHOOL FOR THE REST OF THE DAY: Immediately yell, “Mom … Yo, mom!” Pause a half-second and in a quiet voice say, “Apparently she isn’t going to answer so know this … (pause another drumbeat) …  “In my neighborhood, I have a female classmate who was held from school today in fear of a catastrophe … her parents are both at work and Romper Room is fixing to start!”

IF TOLD TO ‘GET OUT, JUST GET OUT, I DON’T CARE WHERE YOU GO!;” Look very intent at the authority and say, “I must warn you, I am going to go get something you aren’t going to like at all … but that’s okay because I can tell from your eyes that your lips have never locked onto a late-morning Coors Light.”

IF TOLD YOU WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO RETURN TO CLASS: Again, stay calm and be cool: “Are you kidding me! This is the worst class I am forced to take. I got 57 others who’ll gladly accept that offer” (If banned from the classroom, go behind the gym until the next class starts.)

IF TOLD YOU WILL BE GETTING FIVE DEMERITS: “Yes sir/ma’am but between us who share this hen house, aren’t you personally a little proud me and the chums who walked out and included the faculty in an effort to keep you and our other teachers safe?”

IF DRESSED DOWN IN FRONT OF THE CLASS BY A FEMALE TEACHER: It is tremendously important you maintain tight eye contact and show no facial emotion. Pause about two drum beats and say these words, “Since the days of ancient Greece, no quivering lips have delivered such eloquence since Homer recited from the Iliad and the Odyssey.”

IF DRESSED DOWN BY A MALE TEACHER: Listen with a studious look and motion the mad man close … to come closer … and then stage-whisper: “We were talking as a big group at lunch just yesterday about what teachers we thought had the guts to carry a concealed weapon in this school. Your name was mentioned several times, and, Mr. xxxxx, this out of the entire faculty, even including the music teachers…” pause one drum beat and – this is so important, without any emotion on your face -- say in the same stage whisper. “You were dead last.”

IF THE TEACHER JUST LOOKS AT YOU, NOT SAYING A WORD: Smile slightly and mouth the silent words, ‘Thank you.’

IF THE TEACHER THANKS YOU FOR TAKING A STAND: This is hard to do but the ultimate reply. Stand up tall beside your chair and say clearly, “I knew you would have expected no less of me,” then add the teacher’s FIRST name.” (I guarantee the class will go nuts and ol’ Ethyl will blush.)

IF THE TEACHER WALKS, TOO: Slip up quite close and stare intently across the street, “Don’t worry … I’ll be honored to take a bullet for you.”

IF BUTCH THE BULLY CHIDES YOU FOR WALKING: “Prunes, Butch, you need more prunes.”

IF SOME HALL MONITOR ASKS IF YOU ARE PROUD OF YOURSELF: Look a little like Butch Cassidy and retort: “None of us can fully appreciate what just one man alone can accomplish if he has a purpose … I’m thinking Billy Graham … What’s your True North?””

TODAY’S RULE: Make your life matter … and enjoy the day.

* * *

“So why stick around? Why remain in your seat, in a holding pattern, if you could stand up for change? I wouldn’t stay seated — and when I was a student, I didn’t. I walked out, and cried out, for something better. And I’ll never regret it. Young people have always been the drivers of protest and social change: It takes the fire of youth to heat up any social movement. We need your voices, and we need them now. So forget about some silly tardy slip. Get up. Walk out. Claim your power for 17 sweet minutes. It could make all the difference.” – Jessica Reeder, Northwest Reno

- - -

“Students have every right to walk out, because society is failing them. The next generation of Americans is being forced into activism, because the alternative is sitting by and allowing guns into their classrooms. And guns are just a drop in the bucket of badness that threatens to spill over and ruin lives, in very real ways. Be it mass shootings, environmental collapse or the global failure of democracy, the problems are real.” – Jessica Feeder, Northwest Reno

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“I'm just trying to be the me that I am and not all of this other crap. I just want to be the family man, and if somehow I can make the money to get my ranch and get the hell away from everybody else, that would be awesome. -- Chris Kyle, “The American Sniper”

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” – Confucius

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