Thousands of students across America are protesting during the National School Walkout on Wednesday by walking out of class to protest gun violence and honor the victims of last month’s shooting in Parkland, Florida.
But another movement has bubbled up that asks students to stay in the classroom, “walk up,” and engage with another person — #WalkUpNotOut, which some schools and students are arguing is a better way to respond to the Parkland shooting.
The #WalkUpNotOut campaign doesn’t say anything explicit about gun control or gun violence; it encourages creating a friendlier school environment for children who might feel bullied or ostracized.
Many schools promoted “walking up” over walking out. The idea has also been embraced by critics of the Parkland activists’ focus on gun control. A viral Facebook post that helped spread the movement painted it as an alternative to “casting stones.” (The author of the social media post told the Carroll County Times that she felt the Parkland activists were disrespectful, and she said the walkout had been “hijacked” to be about more than just remembering victims.) The Walk Up idea was also promoted by the Facebook page 1 Million Moms Against Gun Control.
Some critics argued that the “walk up” idea oversimplified the complex factors that drive someone to commit a heinous act of violence and that it could put the burden on teenagers to spot troubled students. (While bullying and unkindness are universal problems, gun violence in the United States is unique in the developed world.)
Others, including a Parkland activist, took a “why not both” approach. David Hogg, a Parkland student and activist, tweeted “#walkoutandwalkup” on Wednesday morning:
The first step to changing the world is believing that you can. #walkoutandwalkup— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) March 14, 2018
It’s not clear who started #WalkUpNotOut
The origins of #WalkUpNotOut aren’t entirely clear. The Indy Star suggests a viral Facebook post in February by a retired teacher in Texas named David Blair helped start the movement (Blair later told Quartz that he supported the students protesting):
In his post, Blair urges students to “put down your stupid phone” and instead talk to that “kid over in the corner, alone.” Blair warned that a student eating lunch alone, or one who is constantly disrupting class “could likely be our next shooter.” So, he urges students and teachers to befriend such an individual to make him or her feel welcome and to possibly head off a future tragedy.
A Maryland youth minister and mom may have also helped spark the movement, posting more detailed instructions for “walking up” instead of “casting stones” on Facebook about two weeks ago, according to the Carroll County Times.
“Instead of walking out of school on March 14, encourage students to walk up — walk up to the kid who sits a lone [sic] at lunch and invite him to sit with your group; walk up to the kid who sits quietly in the corner of the room and sit next to her, smile, and say Hi; walk up to the kid who causes disturbances in class and ask what he is doing; walk up to your teachers and thank them; walk up to someone who has different views than you and get to know them — you may be surprised at how much you have in common,” she wrote in her message, which went viral.
Ryan Petty, the father of Alaina Petty, a 14-year-old Parkland victim, also advocated for this approach, sharing a screenshot of Guest’s post on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The #March4OurLives supporters will accomplish only two things. 1. They'll exercise their 1st Amendment right. 2. They'll get a little exercise. If you really want to stop the next school shooter #walkupnotout pic.twitter.com/9kY3k53xcr— Ryan Petty (@rpetty) March 13, 2018
Schools especially have promoted the “walk up,” although some students have added it to other walkouts or memorials for the Parkland victims.
Students at Flamson Middle School are participating in Kindness Week. Monday was Meet Someone New Monday. Students were challenged to find someone sitting alone and say "hi". #walkupnotout pic.twitter.com/WfaBFkBRCz— Gene Miller (@drgenemiller) March 14, 2018
One Virginia’s teacher’s “walk up” post, scribbled on a whiteboard, was widely shared. Jodie Katsetos, a sixth-grade teacher at Arcadia Middle School in Oak Hall, Virginia, told ABC News that she wanted to promote a positive message but wasn’t advocating against a walkout either.
“I am adamant about it staying positive,” she said. “I’m not pushing either. I made those suggestions as alternatives to walking out and just an everyday reminder to include others and be considerate, which is something that I talk about with students each day.”
There’s another movement happening today...— Lauren Artino 14News (@Lauren14news) March 14, 2018
Some students and teachers are pushing for #walkupnotout
Their goal? To honor the victims of the Parkland shooting by making a new friend, understanding someone going through a hard time and being nice. pic.twitter.com/hfTeF3cClI
Many people who support the walkouts said something similar about “walk up” — that it shouldn’t be an either/or proposition. Students could, and should, do both: be kind to their peers, reach out to different people, but also exercise their right to protest and speak out for gun law reform, if that’s what they believe.