Apple Valley Reacts to Stoneman Douglas


Hundreds of students gathered at AVHS and participated in a nation-walkout

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School’s 2018 Valentine’s Day started similarly to Apple Valley High School’s. In Minnesota, members of the National Art Honor Society sold heart shaped pins at lunch, while their counterparts in Florida sold carnations in the cafeteria. The mornings in both cities could’ve mirrored those from any other typical American town.  

Student speakers stood on top of a truck and gave speeches during the walkout. Photo Credit: Annie Nguyen

But as the end of the school day approached, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz confidently entered the hallways he had navigated numerous times as a former student. Soon after, Stoneman Douglas had its name sprawled across breaking news headlines for a tragedy no one should face. Kids and teachers crammed into closets as they hid from gunshots. Seventeen victims never made it home.

The immediate aftermath of the school shooting was narrated with fear and confusion. One Douglas student, who had wrote supportive notes for Sandy Hook just years before, now learned that some of their classmates were dead.

Florida’s mass shooting sent shock waves throughout the nation, reigniting debates revolving around gun control and mental illness. Now, a month after the horrific event, AVHS students can’t help but continue to relate to the Parkland tragedy. The same lingering question ran through the minds of students and staff across the United States: What if this happened at my school?

At Apple Valley High School, students and staff go through mandatory safety drills for both lockdowns and evacuations. Additionally, adult faculty members—from teachers to administration—overgo staff development exercises when students are not on campus to further establish their understanding of how to manage unusual circumstances.

AVHS English teacher Rose Jagim recalled being involved in a specialized training day at the high school in which the Apple Valley Police Department “were around shooting blanks” in order to assess whether or not staff me

Students from AVHS and SES at the walkout. Photo Credit: Annie Nguyen

mbers could hear and identify the sound of a gunshot from their various positions around the building. Furthermore, local police worked with adult staff members to outline appropriate reactions.

Apple Valley’s safety procedures are clearly defined through specific guidelines and measures. A day following the Parkland shooting, Principal Michael Bolsoni released a statement that was emailed to AVHS students, parents, and guardians.

“While no school is immune from such a situation, rest assured that the safety of students, staff and visitors is a top priority at all District 196 schools and is under constant review,” stated Bolsoni.

Still, events like Parkland are unpredictable and impossible to fully prepare for. Jagim expressed her conflicting attitudes towards some aspects of the AVHS building, such as its open layout and thin walls, and commented, “I don’t want to be in a classroom that looks like a holding cell either. I don’t feel like what we have here is really much protection, but I don’t want to teach as if something horrible is gonna happen.”

It’s not just staff members who are being affected. The majority of those with opinions surrounding school safety are much younger. Freshman Taylor Gibson showed concerns similar to Jagim’s and stated that she doesn’t feel entirely safe at Apple Valley, especially following the Florida shooting.

“It was terrible to know kids my age had to defend their classmates and their teachers and that not everyone felt safe. I am 15. You never even want to imagine something like [Parkland] to happen,” stated Gibson.

Anxiety surrounding schools is not unprecedented. As of last month’s incident, the infamous attack perpetrated at Columbine High School in 1999 is no longer one of the top ten mass shootings in modern U.S. history. AVHS Social Studies teacher Brett Melton elaborates on his own personal experience with all that has happened since Columbine, “I don’t know of a world of being a teacher and not having these conversations [about school shootings]. It’s like my kid, you know, having him grow up and talk about – he uses the word terrorism – mostly jokingly but he uses it casually, because that’s part of his existence. And I didn’t grow up with that so it’s still strange to me.”

Yet, in the midst of traumatic events, it’s important to keep reality in check. News headlines portray school shootings as if they are commonplace. However, the classroom is one of the last places to be worried about, says The Washington Post. The chances of being shot and killed at school is only 1 in 614,000,000. While reflecting on tragic events and taking responsive measures are critical, understanding that statistics repeatedly show that mass shootings are rare can provide paths towards recovery and resiliency.

Students holding signs listing major shootings in the U.S. since Columbine. Photo Credit: Annie Nguyen

Many of AVHS’ students are channeling their reactions into calls for legislative change. Students at AVHS were involved in a nation-wide walkout called for by the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER organization on March 14th. The walkout was expected to be held for 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims, and aimed to create awareness for stricter gun control. However, the walkout at lasted roughly 30 minutes as student speakers from Apple Valley and the School of Environmental Students gave speeches and held moments of silence.

Students who were in favor of pro-gun policies opted out of the walkout. They cited various reasons for not participating, from claiming that walkouts have little effect on policy to saying gun control would infringe on their 2nd Amendment rights.

No matter where political ideologies lie, one thing is for sure: young people have valid opinions, and they fully intend on making their voices be heard. Loud and clear.