Stepping up

Students hold peace rally to stop violence both in and out of school

By JANICE PODSADA

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — They danced to the sound of recorded gunshots. Their footsteps were an ironic twist in a serious effort to stop the violence. They danced to show the kids weapons are never an answer.

More than 500 children watched as a troop of 14 young dancers, all dressed in black, from Madrona School in Edmonds stepped to the staccato recording of gunfire.

The dance against violence was just one event that took place during an hourlong peace rally staged Tuesday morning. Students from Alderwood Middle School, Terrace Park and Madrona attended the rally at Edmonds Civic Stadium.

The rally commemorated the fifth annual "Day of National Concern About Young People and Gun Violence," which is sponsored by Students Against Violence Everywhere (SAVE), a national group seeking to end violence.

This year and the past two years, the rally was organized by Wendy Ewbanks, teacher and SAVE faculty advisor at Madrona.

The same message was repeated by students in song, dance and words: Violence has no place in this world.

Rejecting violence begins young, and begins in seemingly small ways, said Molly Haas, a senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School who took the podium.

"How often do we sit there in school and watch someone get harassed?" Molly asked the crowd.

"Words can hurt people. Don’t you want to be the person to stand up and take a stand when someone is being picked on? Take a stand and people will respect you for that."

Speaker Bruce Gryniewsky, executive director of the Ceasefire Foundation of Washington, a group dedicated to ending gun violence, told his young audience that a recent study indicated that many school shootings could have been prevented.

"In every single case, students involved in these shootings told another student they were going to do this. In every case that other student didn’t tell anyone else," Gryniewsky said. "I’m asking you to think about this."

In light of the recent violence in the Middle East and an attack on a freshman at Cascade High School in Everett, Madrona student, April Haas, 13, said she has redoubled her efforts to urge other students to join SAVE.

"That kind of thing just makes me more determined," April said.

In 1998, members of Madrona’s SAVE chapter lobbied the Edmonds City Council for permission to stage a peace rally for local elementary, middle and high school students.

They told council members it would be a chance for kids to gather, to ponder the consequences of wielding hate and harassment in and out of school, to think about ways to solve conflicts without bullets, fists or insults.

At the conclusion of Tuesday’s peace rally, Whitney Keller, 13, a Madrona student, led students in repeating the SAVE pledge.

"I will never bring a weapon to school. I will never use a weapon to settle a dispute," Whitney said.

Five hundred children repeated the pledge.

"They really took the it seriously," Whitney said. "It made me feel really good."

Nine-year-old Brian Fu, a student at Madrona School was one of the children who made the promise.

"Using a weapon isn’t very good," Brian said afterwards. "You might kill your best friends."

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