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CMSD students protest gun violence, seek safer schools

By Chardon Black

With the recent shooting at John Adams High School on the east side claiming the life of CMSD student Pierre McCoy, it’s becoming more and more apparent that CMSD has a growing problem with the safety and security of its students across the district. And it’s only a matter of time before that gets changed.

Amidst its search for a new CEO, the Cleveland Metropolitan School District also has faced several crimes and gun violence committed across K-12 schools this past school year. These actions have ranged from simply bringing a gun to school such as East Tech’s incident back in October, all the way up to shootings of students near Rhodes and, just recently, John Adams High School.

The increase in violence has not gone unnoticed though, with several initiatives across Cleveland being launched to combat these strains of brutality. For instance, we here at the Unsilenced Voices launched several anti-gun violence symposiums in collaboration with CMSD high schools. Civics 2.0 and Junior Civics 2.0 students were given the opportunity to develop their own action plans over the next few months on how to address gun violence. These plans will be revealed at the upcoming demonstration of learning, and are expected to be implemented in some manner over the next few years.

Along with that, Mayor Justin Bibb continuously advocates for an anti-violence approach across the city. With Mayor Bibb’s “Violence Prevention Strategy,” he intends to use his power to address a broad range of sources of gun violence, including student engagement in education and illegal gun access.

But the movement has expanded beyond just district and city authority.

Students have begun to take matters into their own hands in addressing gun violence. Taking to social media and protests outside high schools, attracting the attention of the whole city to listen to their concerns. Among their demands: stronger district security, alterations to the Greater Cleveland RTA’s bus routes, and encouraging other youths to speak out at their schools about their issues.

The Unsilenced Voices got to speak with Lavashanay Morris, a senior at John Adams High School. Lavashanay was the recent spark that led to a school-wide walkout in memorium of Pierre McCoy, after he was shot and killed at a bus stop near the school. The students protested for over an hour outside John Adams High School with the words “Stop the violence” and “LongliveP” continuously being the key phrases of the protest.

“After the shooting, the school felt completely different, a really dark place,” Morris said. “You could even see it on the teachers, they didn’t seem normal.”

The motivations were very clear, Morris said.

“Our goal was mostly safety for our school, and even more for our community you know? Our protest was really about us not wanting to be the next person to be shot," she said.

One of Morris' messages was how Cleveland could heal as a community.

“I feel students should always start with themselves if they’re trying to make a change, then work together with others to better their community," she said.

Morris is just one of the many student activists looking to change the way Cleveland and CMSD protect their schools and students. These young adults approach the issue of gun violence with a unique perspective, having personally experienced instances of gun violence. Their motivations include not stopping until they feel safe in schools and representing the lives of those they’ve lost to gun violence.

Soon enough, with enough collaboration across all levels, these activists hope to not only change Cleveland but the world. Truly admirable foes to the issues of gun violence.