In the wake of the Parkland shooting it’s become popular to assign some blame to survivors and victims who may have mistreated the shooters.
If other students had only been nicer to the shooter, the argument goes, it all could have been avoided. It’s the idea behind Walk Up Not Out, and spread by people like Angelica Mansfield, a High School student who blasted fellow students who walked out of school to protest violence.
“These shootings are happening from these kids that you’re cornering out, that you’re bullying…because you think it’s funny. And it’s not funny,” she said. “All of these kids just want to be themselves, they want to be who they wanna be in their own schools.”
A new essay by one of the survivors destroys this narrative. In a New York Times essay called “I Was Kind to Nikolas Cruz. He Still Killed My Friends,” Parkland survivor Isabelle Robinson details her dealings with accused shooter Nikolas Crus, going back to the time he threw an apple at her and injured her as she was eating her lunch.
“I am writing this because of the disturbing amount of comments I’ve read that go something like this: Maybe if Cruz’s classmates and peers had been a little nicer to him, this tragedy would never have occurred,” she writes. “This deeply dangerous sentiment, expressed under the #WalkUpNotOut hashtag, implies that acts of school violence can be stopped if students befriend disturbed and potentially dangerous classmates. The idea that we are to blame, even implicitly, for the murders of our friends and teacher, is a slap in the face to all Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims and survivors.”
She talks about being assigned to tutor Cruz—which was a harrowing experience.
“I was forced to endure his cursing me out and ogling my chest until the hourlong class period was up. When I was done, I felt a surge of pride for having organized his binder and helped him with his homework,” she writes. “Looking back, I am horrified. I now understand that I was left, unassisted, with a student who had a known history of rage and brutality.”
#WalkUpNotOut puts the onus on students who don’t have the knowledge, resources or responsibility to treat deeply disturbed classmates, she argues.
“No amount of kindness or compassion alone would have changed the person that Nikolas Cruz is and was, or the horrendous actions he perpetrated,” she writes. “The implication that Cruz’s mental health issues could have been solved if only he had been loved more by his fellow students is both a gross misunderstanding of how these diseases work and a dangerous suggestion that puts children on the front line.”
Read the full essay here.