Local students participate in national walkout against school violence

Local students participate in national walkout against school violence

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Students from 3,000 schools nationwide streamed out of class Wednesday morning at the same time, protesting school violence.

Students left class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims of the school shooting in Florida last month.

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Channel 9 Skyzoom flew over Ardrey Kell High School, where hundreds of students could be seen filing out of their classes, some holding signs.

Hundreds of students walked out of their classes at 10 a.m. and sat quietly in the hallways. For 17 minutes they listened to the names read of each victim from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, as well as something about that person.

They were quiet and respectful, and nobody spoke or played with their cellphones.

Even hundreds of miles away from Florida, the students felt connected.

"I wanted to cry but I try to hold it in because it's just crazy how people can do those things to kids," said Hunter Haven, a junior.

After 17 minutes, the students quietly walked back into class and the classroom doors closed.

Schools in Lancaster County did not want to let students outside because of security concerns. Many other local schools did the same, keeping students in hallways or common areas.

Myers Park High School in Charlotte was one of several local schools participating in the walkout.

"It has to be us that pushes for change," Myers Park High School student Matthew Griffin said.

There's a clear sense of duty for the students at Myers Park.

"Nowadays, when there's a lockout, there's always more of concern that it may be the real thing," student Jack Osment said.

"That's just not a fair position for students to be put in to have to constantly wonder what they're going to do if there's an active shooter," student Ella Icard said.

The students, who have helped to lead the movement at Myers Park, were joined by hundreds of their peers, school staff and parents.

"The response was just overwhelming,” student Bronwyn Fulton said. “I didn't expect people to be so passionate about it."

The students will hold a vigil in the school quad to honor the 17 victims killed in Parkland, Florida as well as a classmate recently lost to gun violence.

The event ended with a call to action.

"Whatever you think the way to fix something is, do something about it and do something to change what's happening right now," student Lily Roberts said.

The district said it expects that students who work with school staff to make credible and peaceful plans will not be subject to suspension or other disciplinary action.

Jessica Clarke is a junior at Hough High School and was one of the organizers of the walkout.

"We can all agree that we don't want any more deaths happening and today was letting our leaders know that enough is enough," Clarke said.

Students give passionate speeches instead of walking out

Classmates at Southwest Middle School didn't walk out of their classrooms Wednesday, a day when thousands of students across the country hit the streets in solidarity.

Instead, students listened to a powerful message from their peers. A group of sixth-graders hoped their voices on the intercom system would be enough to make a difference at the school.

"We stand together and commit together that no act of violence will ever happen in these walls," student Madeline Hughes said.

The Southwest Middle students read the names of each of the victims in the Parkland, Florida, school mass shooting and held a moment of silence. They demanded their peers take action.

"Walk up to 14 students and three students and say something kind to honor the 17 lives lost one month ago today," Madeline said.

Two weeks ago, the school was the center of a social media threat. It was one of the reasons the students were asked not to walk out Wednesday.

"I think that in times like that -- just stay strong," student Ava Childress said.

A group of girls at the school started the Civic Voices Club one day after the shooting and their meeting is focused on school safety and current events.

Bella Glasserweston said she believes their voices will bring meaningful change.

"I feel like it’s important that everybody knows that they have a chance to be heard as well -- not just the big people -- small people as well," Bella said.

"I think that we also need to have be an advocate,” student Alexa Hill said. “Not all kids know the signs of someone being sad. This can lead to stuff like the violence and say, ‘Oh, I can get attention for this.’ I think advocating for others is the best thing I can do."

The club is currently working on an anti-bullying campaign. The members plan to host more events for their peers throughout the school year.

Student walkout: Some protested, others honored lives lost

The halls in Andrew Jackson High School in Lancaster County were as quiet Wednesday morning as if they were empty.

There was a strange silence as hundreds of students sat in the hallways leaning against lockers with their classmates nearby.

"We keep doing nothing, then nothing's going to happen," junior Chloe Mungo said. "We want them to listen to us today."

The mood at Andrew Jackson was more in line with a memorial than a protest.

Students sat quiet and still as the names of those killed in the Florida mass shooting were read.

There were stories of those students, including their hobbies, interests and ambitions.

"We don't know those kids,” junior Owen Broadway said. “We've never met them before in our lives but we feel like we know them."

Others said they were there to support the families of those killed.

"Just to show their families that there are other people who care," sophomore Tyleik Elder said.

The voice of JROTC instructor John Verdugo echoed in the solemn hallways for 17 minutes. His biggest fear was not being able to get through it.

"It was difficult reading through it,” he said. “I started getting choked up."

Many students wiped away tears thinking about the reality of school shootings and what if it happened there, to them or their friends.

"It made me think, ‘What if they were my friends? What if that was me?’" Mungo said.  "This was a push for stricter gun laws, stricter background checks and a ban on the assault rifles."

Other students told Channel 9 they weren't sure what the answers were but it's time to do something.

"I'm not a politician. I don't know what kind of law needs to be put in place, but try something. Please try something," Broadway said.

Lancaster County Schools district officials told Channel 9 that they agreed to give students the time to walk out because they viewed it as a learning experience and a chance to be part of something.

Junior Hunter Haven said the walkout for him was about reflection.

“The whole time I was thinking about how would I feel if this happened to my school," he said.

After reading the 17 names over the intercom, Verdugo told the students to speak up and tell an adult if they ever hear about a threat of violence against the school or another person.  He said most school shooters tell someone before they commit an act of violence and everyone needs to listen, and respond.

As for Parkland, prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against the suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. He is accused of killing 17 people at the school.

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