All across the country at 10:17 a.m. local time, students and school staff left their classrooms in organized school walkouts to promote better action and policy when it comes to gun violence. This walkout is just one of many planned demonstrations in response to the latest shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in FL. Today’s event, organized by the Women’s March Youth Empower group, takes place exactly a month after the Parkland, FL school shooting. Students (and anyone who supports them) are encouraged to walk out of school at 10AM local time for 17 minutes, a minute for each life taken at Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
We reached out to students, parents, and school staff to hear why and how they’re participating today.
Violet Massie-Vereker, student at Pelham Memorial High School, Pelham, New York
“Our walk out at Pelham Memorial High School was a terrific success. The walkout was organized by the Social and Political Activism Club and took place surrounding the flagpole in front of our high school, with similar demonstrations and assemblies co-occurring in the middle school and with a collection of elementary school students. The turnout was fantastic, with 200+ students as well as faculty members walking out in all black in complete silence, followed by brief statements by the organizers and a flurry of phone calls to representatives in Congress, concluded with an Emma Gonzalez inspired, “We call BS!” chant.
It was an incredibly humbling experience to see so many kids I’ve grown up going to school with rising from class and silently walking with respect and camaraderie. And to see everyone calling, nervous but determined, and holding signs, chanting – all in front of my sleepy little high school! It was completely thrilling.”
Carolyn Castiglia, parent of a middle school student, NYC
“My grandparents died from gun violence in a murder-suicide over 20 years ago. I’ve written about gun violence and the need for gun control for many years, and at some point I lost hope. I’m so proud of America’s young people for standing up and doing what the adults won’t: forcing change.”
Photo: Carolyn’s daughter holding her anti-gun violence sign
Kym Ganeles, parent of a kindergartner and 5th grader. Stevens Elementary, Wheat Ridge, CO
“It was mostly 6th graders, supported by teachers and staff (as elementary kids are too young to take to the streets alone), but I signed out my kindergartner and 5th grader too. The students used their 17 minute protest to write chalk messages in front of the school pledging support and action.”
Photo: Stevens Elementary anti-gun walkout
Lesley Jorge, teacher at Morgan Park Academy, Chicago
“Ready to stand with my students and colleagues in the MPA community and nationwide. The voices of young people will not be ignored. I am inspired by the passion my high school students are demonstrating on this topic. They are fired up and engaged. It is incredible. In 18 years in the classroom I have never seen teenagers come together the way that they are now. #neveragain #armmewith #ENOUGH #nationalschoolwalkout.”
Chloe Phoenix, Sophomore at Morgan Park Academy, Chicago
“Gun violence isn’t one big issue. There are other details that go along with it. Cops killing innocent black youth = gun issue; killing tons of people from your hotel room = gun issue… it’s almost like a spectrum. In my opinion, this issue will keep happening until the millennials take office and replace the older generations. And that shouldn’t even be seen as a subjective claim, but rather a fact! The new generations are the ones ACTUALLY doing something about it. I joined the walk out because it’s my duty as a human being to stand up for peace and justice. I hope that there is a drastic change that happens and happens soon. We need to get ride of guns. Period.”
Photo: Morgan Park Academy Walk Out
Celeste Kettaneh, Sophomore at Morgan Park Academy, Chicago
“I led this walkout with my friends and teachers because I am a strong believer in change in this world. I do not like to sit down and see the world drastically change in my eyes.
After writing a letter to my head of school, collecting thoughts from those closest to me, and being backed with a large build up of support, I managed to gather my entire school’s support with the walkout as well.
This national walkout is powerful, and I hope decades from now, people can look back on this, and say, “wow, if they can create change, then I know I can too.”
Change can and will happen, as it has in Florida, and will continue to happen, as we all take action and start standing for the voices of tomorrow.”
Photo: Morgan Park Academy Walk Out
Sophie Ostrove, 15. Student at The Frisch School, NJ
Sophie Ostrove’s school ended up having an assembly in the gym instead of a walkout, but she did not get the chance to read her speech there. Her English teacher let her read it to her class, and we’re sharing it with you all now.
Julie Schwietert Collazo, parent of two young students in Queens, NY
“Four parents, two kids (both mine), and Zora O’Neill. That was the showing for #ENOUGH at PS 166. Not pictured: The 17 blank hearts we posted on the fence and were told to take down by security.”
Photo: Mariel Collazo Schwietert, a third grader at PS166Q protesting gun violence.