‘Almost No One Agrees With Us’: When Rural Students Emulate Parkland

‘Almost No One Agrees With Us’: When Rural Students Emulate Parkland

A billboard supporting the students of Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky. In January, two students at the school were killed in a shooting. BENTON, Ky. — The teenagers in rural Kentucky decided they were fed up after a 15-year-old with a handgun turned their high school into another killing ground, murdering two classmates. Like so many other students, they wrote speeches and op-ed essays calling for gun control, they painted posters and they marched on their State Capitol. The blush of activism made them feel empowered, even a little invincible. Then came the backlash. It started with sideways looks and laughter from other students in the hallways, they said. Friends deleted them from group chats and stopped inviting them over. On social media, people called the teenage activists “retards” and “spoiled brats,” and said they should have been the ones to die during a shooting in Marshall County High School’s student commons four months ago. In a more liberal city like Parkland, Fla., or at a rally in Washington, these students might have been celebrated as young leaders. But in rural, conservative parts of the country where farm fields crackle with target practice and children grow up turkey hunting with their parents, the new wave of student activism clashes with bedrock support for gun rights. Speaking out in a place like Marshall County, Ky., carries a price — measured in frayed friendships, arguments with parents and animosity within the same walls where classmates were gunned down. The […]

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