Coming today on The Exchange, last weekend, hundreds of people turned out for Sioux City’s March for Our Lives event downtown. Students got up and spoke powerfully on threat of gun violence in their schools
Also, we learn about Sioux City’s power to sway voters over women’s suffrage one hundred years ago.
And the Orange City Public Library decides to keep an LGBTQ children’s book, but will try a new system to categorize books.
That and more on the Exchange, Wednesday at noon on Siouxland Public Media.
Welcome to The Exchange, on Siouxland Public Media. I’m Mary Hartnett. This weekend, more than three hundred people showed up to take part in the March for Our Lives in downtown Sioux City. The group marched from the Tyson Events Center, to the Sioux City Public Museum, an 11 minute journey, which is meant to symbolize the 11 minutes that the recent gunman in Parkland, Florida spent shooting and killing his classmates on February 14th. It was a cold, windy, wet day, and so the group moved into the biggest space possible at the Museum. Once there, the group sang the national anthem, led by two young people.
One of the event organizers, Sarah Hoffer, thanked the crowd for coming. Hoffer said she was amazed at the number of people that came out.
“When I first applied for a permit for this, there was a comment made to me that didn’t really strike me as odd. They asked how many people I thought would show up. I said I don’t know, could be ten could be one hundred, and a comment was made, ‘Well it’s Sioux City, so don’t expect much.’”
Hoffer then talked about why she wanted to have this march. Hoffer says she remembered the tragedy of the Columbine shooting, back in the 1990s.
“Well, 19 years later, and 187-thousand students have now been exposed to gun violence, within their school. That’s greater than our population. that’s a number that I can’t even wrap my head around.”
Hoffer acknowledged that the marchers probably took part for a variety of reasons.
“I know that some of you are here today with the opinion of pushing for gun control, some of you are here today with the notion of pushing for armed staff in our school, some of you are here today with the notion of pushing for bullying prevention, some of you are here with the notion of bringing more awareness to mental health. I am personally here because I don’t think our schools are secure enough and keeping threats out. But, you know what Sioux City, no matter what your opinion is, you are here today, you are all here today. We are joining hundreds of thousands of our fellow human beings in over 800 cities on six continents today.”
Several students from Sioux City schools spoke out about how they feel knowing that gun violence is still a big problem in American schools. Langston Saint is ten years old and attends Loess Hills Elementary School. Langston said he’s worried about many aspects of guns in schools, and mostly, he is afraid.
“Knowing that a shooter could strike my school, and possibly kill me, my classmates and my teachers. Between 2000 and 2009, there were 63 school shootings and 107 people killed in them. Since 2011, there have been 53 school shootings and 110 people killed. That’s 88 more shootings, and the decade is not over yet.”
Langston went on to talk about proposals to arm teachers and other school personnel to take action when there is a shooting.
“Some school shootings are caused by teachers, such as the one at the university of Alabama where my parents went to school. And even if we know that this person is someone we can trust, even if they had the greatest intentions at heart, even if they have the best character, you still might not be able to trust them with a gun. Even police with years of training, sometimes misuse their weapons and kill innocent people. If we sometimes can’t trust trained and certified police officers, how can we trust teachers in our school with little to no training?
Next, a North High School student talked about her feelings and fears surrounding gun violence at school. Elis Sturgeon is 18 years old and Senior at North High. Elise said the tragedy in Parkland, Florida should never have been allowed to happen.
“Students and staff died on Valentines Day and Ash Wednesday, two days that call for love and peace, but instead they went to school only to be confronted by a boy with a gun and evil intentions. This traged that could have been prevented, took away any chance for peace at Majororie Stillman High School that day.”
Elise went on to talk about the people who died in that shooting and how it has affected all American students.
“Children should not have to sacrifice their lives for others, students should not have to think about the possibility of dying in their schools. Kids shouldn’t have to jump every time they hear a loud noise because they fear for their lives. Students of America shouldn’t have to fear for their lives just to get an education. We didn’t sign up for this. So why are we allowing military grade weapons to fall into the hands of children?”
Elise said the day after the shooting she asked several teachers what their plan was in case a shooter got into the school.
“Many told us that their plan was to hide in a corner, another told me they had a hammer to break out a window and a bunch of golf balls to throw. One teacher was brutally honest and said if there was someone with an AR15 in our school, we were screwed. The same teacher also said that, if it came down to it, she would throw herself in front of a gun to save her students’ lives. My teachers should not have to contemplate whether they would save their own lives. That is not in any teaching contract. Teachers should worry about giving us the information we need to be successful, thriving adults. Teachers should be planning after school programs, not planning to hand over their lives.”
The next student to speak was Kaylen Roberts, a political science major at Morningside College. Kaylen encouraged Sioux Citians to get poltically active to try and change the laws that are allowing gun violence in schools.
“If you are old enough, register to vote and actually do it. Be an informed voter, so you can go to the polls with confidence, knowing that you are voting for candidates that maintain your ideals, and that will initiate change to eliminate this epidemic. Your vote counts and is an incredibly powerful way to make a difference. Even if you can’t vote, you can still have major influential power over your representatives, we all wield this power. Here in Iowa we have five people representing us in the US Congress. Learn about them. And their stance on policy. And what they have done to deal with this epidemic of school shootings.”
Morningside College Associate Professor of Political Science Valerie Henning came the podium and talked about her experiences with college students and who gun violence of the last 20 years has affected how they see the world.
“Virginia Tech happened 11 years ago. This is the 19th anniversary of Columbine. But when I think about my students, and the students in this room and across the nation, the mass shooting generation is not who they are. That describes the world we have given them. The promises broken. My students are the change generation, and I think we heard that today. So as we consider the various policies that will ultimately make our community safe, I just wanted to echo the things we heard each one of them say. This is not the end, this is just the beginning.”
The marchers dispersed soon after that, many of them saying they would gladly take to the streets again to fight the circumstances that allow gun violence in schools.
You’re listening to the Exchange on Siouxland Public Media, I’m Mary Hartnett.
Last month, the Exchange hosted a live show in Orange City, to talk about the recent controversy over some LGBTQ children’s books in the public library. At the time, the board had not yet decided whether to yield to requests that the books be removed or recatagorized. At their monthly meeting last week, the board decided to reorganize the books by subject, so patrons would have a better idea of the content of the books. Amanda Vasquez is the director of the Orange City Public Library. She couldn’t comment on the controversy, but she did explain how the new book organization system would work.
That was Amanda Vasquez, the director of the Orange City Public Library. The library board has decided to try a new categorization system that would arrange books by topic, after last month’s controversy over some LGBTQ books that some in the community wanted to see removed. The library will keep one of the books in question called Morris Mickelwhite and the Tangerine Dress, about a little boy that likes to occasionally put on dressed.
Steve Mahr, the owner of the Town Sqare Coffeehouse, was one of the community members that wanted to keep the books. I asked him about the library’s decision and an upcoming event aimed at Fourth District Republican Steve King that takes place tomorrow night.
When I talked to Mahr, the controversy over King’s comments about teenage girl who was taking part in a Walk Out over gun violence in schools hadn’t occurred yet. King made some comments about her wearing a shirt that featured the Cuban flag, a Communist country. Anyway, concerning the books, Mahr says he is satisfied with the Orange County Public Library’s decision.
That was Steve Mahr, the owner of the Town Square Coffeehouse in Orange City. He and other community members are gathering tomorrow night in front of the Sioux Center Public Library to talk about their issues with 4th District Republican Congressman Steve King..
Political differences in Iowa Iowa are nothing new. A hundred years ago, those differences sometimes had to do with the then contentious issue of giving American women the right to vote.
This is the last week of March, which is Womens’ History Month. Morningside College Assistant professor of history Kitty GreenTeaches American history from colonization to the present, courses concentrating in the world wars of the 20th century and women’s history. Green shared some of that history Sunday at the Sioux City Public Museum. She talked about the suffrage movement in Sioux City in 1916, when the state had a referendum on the ballot about women’s suffrage. Green said there was a lot of support for the measure among the city’s society women and their clubs. But there were also women who were resolutely against giving themselves the vote.
That was Kitty Green, talking about the women’s suffrage movement in Sioux City in 1916, when the state was considering a referendum on the ballot that would have given women the vote.