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Governor declines talk with Great Mills students

Kara Dudley (left), leader of the local Moms Demand Action chapter; Collin Foster (center), St. Mary’s County Democratic Central Committee Member-elect; Jaxon O’Mara (right), Group Lead of Southern Maryland’s Students Demand Action.

The following story was submitted to TheBayNet.com by a local writer

GREAT MILLS, MD -- On March 20th, 2018, Great Mills High School went through something that far too many schools have witnessed. Students lost their peer, Jaelynn Willey, to gun violence. However, they very well could have lost two with the injury of a second student: Desmond Barnes. Motivated by the alarming need for change across the United States, Great Mills High School students have been trying harder than ever to ignite the conversation with politicians on all levels. Despite their efforts, they seem to have the most difficulty with the Maryland Governor, Larry Hogan.

The Governor has seemed to be more than willing to participate in this movement to reconstruct school safety. At the press conference held March 20, the day of the Great Mills High School shooting, he claimed that “we need more than prayers” to confront in-school gun violence. He went further to say that the State government is “gonna continue to support law enforcement at every level…,” that it is “gonna be here for the families,” and most importantly, that it is “gonna be here… for the children at Great Mills High School.”

The Republican Governor even went further to claim, “We’re gonna try to get something done in Annapolis,” and though however long and difficult of a process this may be, “It’s gonna take everybody working together because no community should ever have to go through this again.” This said, it is no doubt that students must also be a part of this life-saving process.

With the recent tragedy in Broward County, Florida, student activism has been something of a norm. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, such as Emma González and Kyle Kashuv, have used social media to hold politicians accountable publicly for their actions (and/or lack thereof).

This has even been a practice of local students from Great Mills High School. One in particular that has stood out in the Maryland community is Jaxon O’Mara, 17.

Jaxon O’Mara, a rising senior who has always been involved in politics, was only further inclined to participate in this movement when the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting occurred, in the same county as her little sister. Five weeks later, she then realized that this problem is closer to home than she ever thought it ever could be: it happened at her school.

Witness of the political involvement of her peers post-shooting, such as the group of students that had a discussion with Senator Ben Cardin (D) and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D) in Washington DC, she decided that it was time to put local involvement into motion as well.

She recalled the discussions that she had with ongoing candidates and currently elected officials such as Delegate Deb Rey (R), Commissioner John O’Connor (R), Sheriff Tim Cameron (R), Representative Steny Hoyer (D), Candidate Brian Crosby (D), and the St. Mary’s County Public Schools Board of Education. Despite her efforts with other candidates, she seemed not to be doing good enough to get to schedule a meeting with Governor Larry Hogan.

After numerous requests to schedule a meeting, she only heard back from the office that Hogan would not be attending any meetings with her. Hogan, aware of her requests, requested that Mr. Edward Clarke, the Executive Director of the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS), send her an email, “assuring” Jaxon that “Governor Hogan remains committed to making sure we all work together to create a safe and supportive learning environment for all schools in Maryland.” Clarke even added that he “would like to set up a date and time… to discuss this matter.” Jaxon, appreciative of what little she can take, is still in the process of scheduling this call.

However, the fight did not stop there.

Jaxon O’Mara would then take her requests to a more social and transparent platform: Twitter. She created a graphic (included within the article) and a complimentary hashtag #HeyHogan, in which she requested three actions on the Governor’s part: for him to meet with the Great Mills High School Students, for him to release the results of his NRA survey for which he was given an A rating, and for him to support common sense gun legislation in Maryland.

Nonetheless, she still went ignored.

Left as her only option, she continued to tweet at Governor Hogan. Citing the selfie that he uploaded captioned with “It’s time to get out and enjoy the sun - but don’t forget the sunscreen,” to which she pointed out the hypocrisy of him having time to take a selfie but not engage in a physical meeting with Great Mills High School students.

As of July 3rd, the Governor even tweeted that he would be appearing on ABC7 to report the weather. Per her ambitions, she responded citing how he “has time to report on weather and traffic” but no time to meet with the students from Great Mills High School.

Aside from this, Jaxon O’Mara has also organized a student-led organization called Students Demand Action, for which she created the first chapter in the state of Maryland. It is a bipartisan organization in which students from all over the political spectrum can come together and advocate for the change that they feel is needed to make their schools and communities safer and more secure. With this organization, she hopes that she can educate her peers on the political process. She even plans on hosting a Congressional Town Hall on Gun Reform and School Safety, as well as a voter registration drive in the coming months, in which young people will be able to register themselves to vote in a more convenient manner.

At the end of the day, this more than motivated student leader wants the United States to be a safer country for all who live here -- whether they be students or residents. That, of course, takes a long time and cannot be done all at once, which is why she is starting in Maryland. While Hogan has made progress in improving the safety of Maryland residents, with the passing of the red flag laws (HB1302) and the Maryland Safe to Learn Act (SB1265), “it is not enough,” Jaxon affirms.

Jaxon urges that the People need to get out and vote, she urges that the young people themselves need to vote in the upcoming elections in November, and most importantly, that the People maintain a constant conversation with their representatives about what they want in regards to common sense gun reform and improvements in school safety.

No matter what side of the political spectrum you may fall on, we can all agree that there needs to be change, whether that be fiscal change or better gun legislation. Above all, remember that no decent human being likes to see others killed mercilessly at the end of any weapon.

Bring the conversation to Governor Hogan. Call his office at 410-974-3901 or 1-800-811-8336.

Questions and comments about this story should be sent to Donovan Weekley at donovanweekleymd@gmail.com

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