Students in Clark and Champaign counties walked out of classrooms Wednesday to honor victims of a Florida high school shooting and to call for reform, despite requests from school leaders to skip the demonstrations.
More than 30 Springfield High School students and about 10 West Liberty-Salem students left class at 10 a.m. and stood outside for 17 minutes. The walkouts were part of a national movement following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.
Several Clark and Champaign County school administrators said students would be punished for walking out, citing safety concerns and district policies. Some held alternative memorial services or moments of silence organized by students who didn’t want to walk out.
“It was kind of scary because I didn’t feel like we had large numbers but our hearts were really in it,” West Liberty Salem senior Addy Wilson said. “We really believed in it.”
West Liberty-Salem High School was the scene of a school shooting in January 2017. Many of the students that protested Wednesday lived through that shooting.
But the school didn’t sanction the protest and the majority of students didn’t participate. The victim of the school shooting, Logan Cole, organized a lunch-time memorial service.
Kids leaving their classroom isn’t safe, Superintendent Kraig Hissong said, and because the walkouts are related to a political movement, shouldn’t be allowed on campus.
Wilson and her fellow protesters will have to serve a detention either on Thursday or Friday, she said.
“I understand that we did do something against school policy but I do find it frustrating that the school did not support us better,” student protester Madeline Emory said.
Supporters gathered across from the Champaign County high school and cheered when the students walked out. That included Garrett Baldwin, who said what the students did was important.
“In America, that’s one of the most important things we have, the ability to voice our difference in opinion … We’re sick and tired of kids being gunned down in schools,” Baldwin said.
At Springfield High School, the administration asked students to not walk out because they believed it wasn’t safe. But more than 30 students did.
The district will work with students to make the walkout a learning experience, Superintendent Bob Hill said in a statement.
“Through the use of restorative practices, the administration will work with student participants to ensure that today’s events are a learning and growth experience for both adults and students alike,” Hill said.
Springfield student leaders Austin Tyree, Paavan Patel, Mariam Ranginwala worked with the school to hold a moment of silence for each of the Florida school shooting victims as an alternative to the walkout.
“The principal was concerned about Springfield High student safety, and he proposed having 17, 30-second moments of silence,” Tyree said. “I think it’s a better alternative to walking out and being disruptive to the class.”
The walkout was a safety hazard, Patel said.
“We thought it wasn’t safe enough for the students to walk outside,” he said.
Patel believes he’s safe in Springfield High School
“We have officers that are well trained and I feel safe,” he said.
Some people who commented on the Springfield News-Sun Facebook page didn’t support the walkouts.
”I say suspend any student that leaves their assigned classroom or give them community service,” Joe Dennis said. “They are there to learn, not to protest.”
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