Tam students participate in nationwide student protests following Nashville school shooting


By Emma Pearson, Lifestyles/Sports Editor

Tamalpais High School students left their sixth period classes to engage in a nationwide walkout protesting gun violence at approximately 11:30 a.m. on April 5. These student protesters walked to the front entrance of the school, gathering with signs and calling to passerby cars at the intersection of Miller Avenue and Camino Alto, in a student protest that evolved from a walkout to a march concluding at Mill Valley City Hall.

Teachers and administrators, including Assistant Principals Karin Hatton and Tara Ranzy, as well as campus supervisors Sergio Chavez, Lynette Egenlauf, Wayne Price, and Ralph Wilson, were present to supervise and attempted to keep students contained to Tam’s side of the Miller-Camino Alto intersection.

“I believe in student agency. I think it’s important that, at this age, you learn how to advocate for yourself, especially when it’s peaceful, and no one’s getting hurt, that’s important. Safety is number one,” Ranzy said, while observing the crowd of students collected at Tam’s entrance.

Despite staff presence and instruction, students quickly broke across the intersection, and continued walking down the roadway of Camino Alto in the walkout-turned-march that ultimately found its way to City Hall. 

Gabby Brandt, Tam senior and member of Social and Environmental Justice Academy (SEJA) — a double humanities course at Tam aimed at students who are passionate about changemaking inside and outside of their community, explained that this was not the initial vision for the protest. “None of it was predetermined, we weren’t even planning on walking out into the street. We were planning on just doing a silent protest by the flagpole [located at Tam’s entrance] at the beginning,” Brandt said.

Many SEJA students aided in the organization of the walkout and made banners and signs with messages that asked for gun reform and increased school safety for student protesters to hold up for witnesses of the protest.

Amidst honking, chanting, and other sounds of protest, Tam senior and member of SEJA Hannah Christensen clarified the classes’ involvement, “This is a national protest, but SEJA spread the word today.”

The protest was organized in direct response to the March 27 school shooting at a private Christian school in Nashville, Tenn., that resulted in the death of six victims. Of the victims, three were school staff members and the remaining three were nine-year-old students enrolled at The Covenant School. The shooter, a former student, was shot and killed by police shortly thereafter. 

The Covenant School shooting is one of 130 mass shootings (identified as incidents in which four or more people are shot) that have occurred in the U.S. this year, according to the BBC. There have been approximately 10,000 people killed by guns nationwide in 2023, about 400 being children under the age of 18, also according to the BBC.

For Christensen, gun violence numbers like these demand action, “There have been so many instances of gun violence in our country, this year alone, in January, we had over one thousand shootings, with many deaths.”

The additional threat of gun violence in American schools, an issue that has killed or injured 74 people in 2023, is all the more personal for students like Christensen.

“I just want to be able to go to school and not feel scared every single day that I might get shot in my classroom,” Christensen said.

The methods for achieving greater safety in American schools, from congressional proposals to arm teachers to others that call for a ban on assault rifles, remain a hotly debated, predominantly partisan issue.

For people like Christensen, the status of mental health and its support systems in the U.S. is greatly lacking and may be the first important step in mitigating gun violence as many of those who perpetrate school shootings have a documented history of mental health issues

“I know that a lot of people want to take guns away but I don’t think that’s going to be realistic enough for our citizens to completely give up guns, so mending our nation’s mental health systems and improving that will be the first step in making our schools a safer place,” Christensen said.

She was unable to expand on her stance on mental health in America, instead following the crowd of students that had moved to ignore administration’s instruction to remain on the sidewalk, and marching with them down Camilo Alto in a protest that brought their calls for student protection from gun violence to Mill Valley City Hall.

The students had not originally planned on moving off-campus, but were met with little resistance from staff when the impromptu march started.

“We turned around and a few people wanted to go back to Tam campus then, but everyone else wanted to go to City Hall, so we made the decision we wanted to do it in front of City Hall,” Brandt said.

Additionally, according to Brandt, they received aid rather than resistance when met with Mill Valley police officers once their destination was determined and the crowd had begun to march down Miller, “completely in the center of the road,” Brandt said.

“Some police started coming, but instead of telling us to disperse, they asked what they could do to help and where they could block traffic,” Brandt said.

According to her account, upon reaching the Depot with the Mill Valley Police Department (MVPD)’s help in re-directing and blocking traffic, a news helicopter appeared above and many witnesses had gotten out of their cars to watch and take pictures of the student protesters. They received support from those inside City Hall as well upon their arrival on the building’s front steps.

“When we arrived at City Hall, these two representatives from inside came out and started sort of clapping as we approached the building, and we ended up on the steps while a bunch of people took pictures of us,” Brandt said.

Brandt herself lodges a more aggressive stance on gun violence than Christensen, one that focuses on the guns themselves, and their relation to the Second Amendment that allows all Americans the right to bear them.

“You can have a gun if it was the same type as those made in the 1700s. It’s not a profound thought, the Second Amendment was written at a time where the kind of weapons that we have now could never have been foreseen,” Brandt believes, “If we took those words for what they really were, that would mean real change.”

Brandt, like Christensen, holds frustrations about the lack of change that has resulted from the pervasive number of mass and school shootings that take place in the U.S.

“It’s really frustrating that we have had so many examples and we still seem to need more for some reason until we actually make change here,” Brandt said, warning that, “when it happens in our own community and we’re sitting there wondering why, with so many chances, we did nothing about it [gun violence in schools] before it was too late.”

After engaging in a moment of silence to honor those victimized by the Nashville shooting in front of City Hall, she was asked to speak.

In her speech on the building’s steps, Brandt asked the difficult question that many are left with after tragedies such as the Nashville shooting occur: “How many more examples do we need?”

Following the walkout, Interim Principal Liz Seabury released a notification to Tam students and parents at 3:19 p.m. the same day. Seabury corroborated Brandt’s account of the MVPD escort of the protesters as well as Ranzy’s statement that safety remains the Tam administration’s “top priority.” She added that an assistant principal and Tam’s Dean of Students Nathan Bernstien joined MVPD in their escort of the protest.

“Students have the right to protest peacefully and participate in student walk-outs however, we mark them absent from class because they are not present under the supervision of the teacher of record. The students we talked to explained to us that they understood this and made the decision to accept the unexcused absence to participate,” Seabury wrote in the report.