March 20, 2018

TAKING A STAND: Simon Pliler spearheads SDHS 'March For Our Lives' effort

The recent mass-casualty shooting that left 17 people dead at a Florida high school and ensuing student uproar demanding stricter gun controls has had local implications.

Inspired by the movement set forth by the Florida students, St. David High School sophomore Simon Pliler is spearheading an effort to have a group of students from his school participate in the “March For Our Lives” rally in two weeks in Phoenix.

“It made me feel that Congress and people in Washington, D.C. are not caring about us; they’re not caring,” said Pliler. “School shootings should not be happening… we should have stopped this stuff after Columbine, after Virginia Tech… after all these different shootings… It’s time for this stop,” he said.

The local effort, so far, involves about 30 students who are planning to attend the March 24 event in a show of students’ and supporters’ solidarity demanding more stringent requirements as they pertain to gun purchases.

“I wanted to organize this because school shootings are becoming too frequent in the United State. I wanted St. David to be involved and recognized in the March,” said Pliler.

In conjunction with the March For Our Lives event planned in Washington, D.C., “Sister Marches” are being held in cities and towns across the nation. In Arizona, students, families and backers will “… take to the streets to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today,” according to a statement from March For Our Lives – Phoenix AZ. “…The collective voices of the March For Our Lives movement will be heard.”

Students will march 1.2 miles to the State Capitol beginning at 10 a.m.

Students are not the only ones paying attention to the frequently occurring incidents at schools across the nation.

A school shooting occurred in Birmingham, Ala., on March 7 that resulted in death of a 17-year-old female and injuries to a 17-year-old male. Authorities initially deemed the incident accidental, although one arrest has been made, according to published news accounts.

Local authorities pay close attention to what transpires at Benson School, said Benson Police Chief Paul Moncada.

“We’re constantly in communication with the schools,” the chief said, noting any threat, whether real or purported, will be thoroughly investigated. “We take threats, whether they’re meant or not, very seriously, and we’ll check each and every one out… we have to, particularly in this day and age,” the chief said, noting all information gathered is forwarded to the County Attorney’s Office which determines if criminal charges are warranted.

In the days following the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., Benson students came forward and reported overhearing potentially threatening comments.

Police, who’d learned of the threats from a parent, responded to the school and searched students’ homes in Vail, Elfrida and Benson. Authorities determined students, who per school policy were immediately suspended, did not pose a real threat to students.

School shootings have become so commonplace, law enforcement now routinely hold active shooter training like the one held at Benson High School recently.

That training held in late January included a myriad of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies as well as fire departments and medics. The training was held by Integrated Community Solutions To Active Violence Events or ICSAVE and the Cochise County Rescue Task Force. It is designed for mass agency response incidents so that there are no communication breakdowns in the event of mass agency responses.

Simon’s mother, Michele Young, said she is proud of her son’s initiative.

“He is showing great leadership qualities and learning how you make a change in our society,” she said, via email. “…Simon feels strongly about St. David School’s risk if an active shooter went on campus… could easily be 15-plus minutes for any police response, the injured would take an hour or more to get to the trauma center and with the closely related population of St. David, almost every family would have a victim. He is realizing that change is hard and with such a divisive subject it is difficult to get support. I am excited for him and his group to go to Phoenix and join the hundreds of thousands of students across the nation in standing up for safety in our schools and communities.”

Pliler, a sophomore, worries an event like this could occur locally.

“I am very concerned about it,” explained Pliler. “Even though it is St. David and not a lot of people live here… it can still happen, it can happen anywhere.”

Pliler has started a gofundme page. Visit then search stdavidstudents to donate toward the campaign.

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