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Ozark Students Don’t Walkout, but Work Together

April 20 marked the 19th anniversary of the tragic school shooting at Columbine High School. With recent school shootings, students across the nation began organizing the National School Walkout. Slated April 20, it was a way to mark the 1999 Columbine shooting while raising awareness on school violence.

Ozark students and administrators were no exception. OHS senior David Grumbine and junior Barbara Rodriguez said they wanted to find a way to participate in the National School Walkout, so they met with school administrators.

“It was right after the Parkland incident. I was on Twitter and seeing nationwide walkouts organized by students,” Grumbine said. “I wanted to do something that would be engaging.”

OHS Principal Jeremy Brownfield said students started the conversation, and he and other administrators were happy to listen.

“To our students’ credit, they didn’t want to walkout necessarily,” Brownfield said. “But they wanted to do something to bring awareness. They wanted it to be something we, as a school, could do.”

Rodriguez said after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, many of her friends were scared to be at school.

“I wanted to find a way to make them feel safer, and have a safer way than a walkout,” she said.

Originally, a student reached out to a Columbine survivor to speak to OHS students. But when that fell through, a new idea was born.

“They asked, what can we do so all students get the same message,” Brownfield said. “It was really a demonstration on the students’ part on how to have a productive dialogue and have their voice heard in a positive, non-disruptive way. For administrators, it was really a message of the school as a community.”

On April 20 as students across the country walked out of school buildings, students at OHS walked into the gymnasium where Rodriguez read the names of the 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting and held a moment of silence. Then, students learned about the Run, Hide, Fight concept.

The information, presented by 18-year law enforcement officer Eric Schroeder, included what to do before, during and after an intruder or active shooter incident.

The National School Walkout was recognized through events in other Ozark buildings, as well.

During a Junior High School assembly, students heard emotional testimony from Principal Jim Hubbard and Assistant Principal Jeff Strickler.

“Every adult in this place cares about you. Sometimes we’re tough on you and it doesn’t feel like we care. We’re tough on you because life is tough sometimes,” Hubbard said. “You are incredible. You are the difference and you are enough — every single one of you.”

Strickler taught students the Window of Life concept, which stresses how to improve your chances of survival in an intruder situation by quickly deciding what actions to take first.

“As far as I’m concerned, this is the most important stuff you can get from school this year: How to keep yourself safe in this world. Because this world is not as safe as we would like it to be,” he said.

Ozark Middle School administrators took the opportunity to leave students with a positive message by talking about kindness. Students reflected on and wrote down ways to encourage and show kindness to others.

“We focused on what we can do to create a positive school culture,” OMS Assistant Principal Skyler Brown said. “Showing kindness to your fellow students is a great way to brighten someone’s day and help others.”

Kindness appeared to be the central theme of the day, being discussed during all of the assemblies.  

“You will never make yourself feel better by making someone else feel bad,” Hubbard stressed to students.