There is not yet a consensus among the generation that comes after millennials about what their age cohort should be called—but the national movement among school-age students against campus gun slaughter indicates that they're already shaping their legacy.
Today at schools across Santa Fe and across the nation, students left their classrooms in commemoration of people killed in recent school shootings, including one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and another at Aztec High School in Aztec, New Mexico. Weeks ago, the Board of Education of Santa Fe Public Schools announced their support for students and faculty who chose to participate in the assemblies, so long as they remained on campus.
At Santa Fe High School, which serves the city's largest population of high school students, a core group of teens arranged to have a 30-minute demonstration at the campus' plaza starting at 10 am. Hundreds showed up. They wrote sidewalk messages in chalk urging love over violence and in protest of the National Rifle Association. Faculty and Principal Carl Marano walked among the students, stopping to chat with a few of them.
Students who spoke with SFR all said they felt it was important to gather in memory of people killed in recent high-profile shootings. But their ideas of political change varied, with some supporting stricter gun control and armed personnel on campus, and others emphasizing the need for stronger mental health services and reducing the overall number of guns at schools.
One thing everybody seemed to agree on: Arming teachers, as President Donald Trump has suggested, wouldn't be a good idea.
Samantha Montoya, a sophomore who used chalk to color in a pink heart, estimated that half the school had poured into the plaza.
Other students described feeling swept up in a wave of attention since the Parkland shooting.
“It’s really, it’s everywhere, so you can’t really get away from it, it’s on TV, it’s in class, everywhere,” said Isaac Watson, a sophomore. His friend standing with him, sophomore Jacob Bennington, said he felt “disgusted” by the type of indiscriminate killing that happened in Parkland, but disagreed with some of the popular solutions tossed around in media reports.
"I remember somebody was considering arming the security guards, and I don't think that's the answer, because if there were a situation, there's so much going on, and—I don't know—I think it would lead to more violence that way," Bennington said.
Santa Fe High was the site of two scares last fall. Three students in November were arrested for allegedly plotting a shooting and were charged with engaging in terrorist activity under an obscure state statute. In a separate incident, another man who wasn't a student was arrested for allegedly bringing a gun onto the campus.
A handful of teenage presenters quieted down the plaza for a moment of silence and a ceremonial release of balloons for those killed in Parkland and Aztec. Afterward, two freshman students, Frida Salas and Marie Tiscieno, told SFR they generally felt safe at school but believed their welfare was sometimes not a top priority of adults.
In late February, SFPS superintendent Veronica Garcia said the district was investing $325,000 in automatic door barricades for classrooms across the district.
“I think that nobody ever did anything about gun violence, and they’re not trying to, and we need people to do something because we don’t feel safe sometimes,” Salas said. Tiscieno added that she would like to see more armed security patrolling the front of campus.
But for senior Dylan Mattes, the question of what must be done presented challenges to the cohesion on display.
Students at Santa Fe Indian School, New Mexico School for the Arts, St. Michael's High School, the El Dorado Community School, Ortiz Middle School, Cesar Chavez Elementary School and others also staged walkout events.
SFR later visited the forensic science class of teacher Renzo Fancellu, where Maxine Gore, also a senior, cited Japan’s far stricter gun laws as a possible solution.
Although they were not united in their ideas about what, precisely, schools should do to protect them, students seemed to recognize the uniqueness of their moment, when the country's adults are at least pretending to care about what they think.
“We have to build up and we have to unite, because we’re not going to be able to do it by ourselves. We’re going to have to do it together, and that’s the only way we can do it,” said Samantha Maestas, a senior.
“This is our generation, and we’re dying, and that’s messed up,” she said, “and we’re not all going to let this happen.”