By Claire Stevens & Sophia Lodigiani,
Students poured out of their classrooms and into the quad as a part of a nationwide walkout against the recent trend of school shootings on Wednesday morning at 10. The walkout lasted 17 minutes to symbolize the 17 victims in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida
Junior Zhen Larsen, who spearheaded the organization of the event, wanted the event to spur action on gun reform, show students the impact they can have and “foster healthy discussions.”
“Right now, polarization tears apart families, neighbors and friends,” Larsen said.
At the walkout, Larsen stood in front of the south gym, megaphone in hand, and addressed a crowd of hundreds of students gathered in the quad.
“As America fights and squabbles amongst itself, innocent lives are lost because Americans cannot hold a proper discussion,” she said.
Other students involved in the effort circulated orange ribbons that students could pin to their clothes or belongings. A few students brought signs bearing slogans like, “Protect kids not guns” and “The time for change is now.”
A sign held tall at the front offered a phone number that students who will be 18 by Nov. 6 could use to register to vote.
Later in the walkout, multi-colored index cards were given to the crowd. Students were told they could voice their opinions on the cards and they would be sent to Senators Kamala Harris and Dianne Feinstein and Representative John Garamendi.
Throughout the gathering, members of the administration and security bordered the quad keeping a watchful eye.
The school maintained district policy and told teachers to mark students as unexcused if they left class to participate.
In a statement released prior to the walkout, Superintendent John Bowes said: “We […] know some students will want to be part of the walkouts that are occurring nationally. As a school district we support student First Amendment rights, but must ensure student safety and uphold district policies and administrative regulations.”
The district placed an emphasis on the desire to ensure safety, above all else, during the demonstrations. Larsen reported that concern helped factor into the decision to keep the walkout gathering on school grounds.
Senior Patrick Carlock also took hold of the megaphone to address students. He shared a personal story of how gun violence had reached him.
“So, when I was 10 years old, my mom had to sit me down and tell me that my friend Keegan Swinney was murdered by his best friend with a weapon that both of them thought was unloaded,” Carlock said.
Carlock continued on to share the story of Courtlinn Arrington, a 17-year-old killed after a gun was accidentally fired in an Alabama high school last week.
“America’s gun problem goes a lot further than schools,” Carlock said.
The consequence of an unexcused absence kept some students away from the walkout, while other refrained because they didn’t agree with the messages of the walkout.
Larsen says she respects those who elected not to participate and sees it as falling under her belief that students should be able to form their own opinions and express them.
Student views differed somewhat when it came to what specific measures should be taken to fix the problem.
Larsen supports changes including increasing the age to purchase firearms to 21, lengthening the waiting period to purchase a gun, more comprehensive background checks and the banning of guns that can fire more than ten rounds at a time.
Junior Salma Doulaki wants to see zero guns in school and the ending of selling automatic or semiautomatic firearms to civilians. Sophomore Maeve Kelly emphasized wanting reform at a federal level, not just in certain states.
Similar walkouts took place at thousands of schools around the country. In continuing the effort for gun reform, there is also a march planned in cities around the country, including Sacramento, for March 24 and another walkout scheduled for April 20.
The latter protest is being organized by the Parkland students who invite students to not return to school until Congress has passed more conservative gun legislation.