Gwyneth Bishara was crushed when she learned Massapequa school officials had disciplined students who had walked out to honor the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Florida.
Bishara is a sophomore at the Stoneman Douglas, and was born in Massapequa.
She doesn’t want the students at Massapequa to feel like she does — scared to eat lunch in the cafeteria, afraid to wear flip-flops because she might not be able to run for cover.
So she wrote an email Sunday to the principals at Massapequa high school and its Ames Campus to tell them how she feels. Now school officials will meet with her Friday, when she comes to town for a weekend march in New York City calling for gun reform.
“Seeing these kids get suspended for voicing their opinions, because they’re scared just like I was scared, is really upsetting,” Bishara, a sophomore at Stoneman Douglas, said Thursday.
Students who stepped out of class on March 14 as part of the national school walkout were served with in-school suspensions for one day, according to Massapequa students and parents.
Massapequa school officials had said they designed a “Day of Peace” initiative for March 14 to honor the 17 shooting victims. In a statement issued on the day of the demonstration, the district said “less than two dozen students chose their own form of remembrance.”
The district also had said any deviation from the outlined procedures would be considered a violation and students were “disciplined appropriately.”
School officials declined to comment further for this story.
Though Bishara moved from Massapequa more than a decade ago, she still feels connected to the town, she said. Both her parents graduated from Massapequa High School and the family visits often, so she was “disheartened” to hear the students were disciplined. She believes the students should have been given detention for violating the code of conduct, but nothing more.
“These students did not leave campus to skip class, they left to make a difference,” she said in her letter to school administrators.
Jason Bishara, 44, said that unlike some other students in Parkland, his daughter has been “kinda quiet through this moment.” She hasn’t attended marches or protests so far, but the suspensions in Massapequa were a catalyst for her, he said.
“She was like, ‘These kids are standing in solidarity with us, I should come to their defense,’” Jason Bishara said.
Bishara will fly into Newark with her father Friday, and she will meet with Massapequa educators later that day.
“Parkland is just like Massapequa, it’s a small town. I don’t want people to think something like that can’t happen in Massapequa,” Bishara said. “The reality is, it could happen anywhere.”