Students in Charlottesville and Beyond Take Part in National School Walkout

Posted: Updated: Mar 14, 2018 04:58 PM
Albemarle High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout Albemarle High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout
Monticello High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout Monticello High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout
Charlottesville High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout Charlottesville High School students take part in #NationalSchoolWalkout
Orange County High School students participating in #NationalSchoolWalkout (Photo courtesy Lexi Boggs) Orange County High School students participating in #NationalSchoolWalkout (Photo courtesy Lexi Boggs)
Students and faculty members gather on the UVA Lawn for #NationalSchoolWalkout Students and faculty members gather on the UVA Lawn for #NationalSchoolWalkout

Thousands of students around the greater-Charlottesville area are showing their support for the victims of the Parkland, FL. school shooting, while also protesting gun violence.

Students across the country left their classrooms around 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, for National Walkout Day. It was one month ago that a total of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed. Authorities have charged 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student of the school, with 17 counts of murder and 17 counts of attempted murder.

Some of the students at Charlottesville High School (CHS) led the demonstration speaking into a megaphone calling for change. The students say they want their voices to be heard and for lawmakers to start taking action before another tragedy happens.

“I hope that people will begin to realize that we have a voice, that teenagers are smart, articulate. We’re passionate about our safety, and about the future of this nation, and I hope they realize that this is not a one day thing,” said Fré Halvorson-Taylor, CHS representative to the School Board.

More than 200 CHS students are expected to take part in the March to End Gun Violence later this month in Washington, DC.

“There’s power in numbers, there’s power in a multitude of voices, and we have that in Charlottesville here and with all of our classmates across the nation,” Halvorson-Taylor said.

“’We need our voice to be heard, and the best way to do that is through getting legislation passed,” said Lamia West, CHS representative to the School Board.

Around 100 Monticello High School (MHS) students gathered at the school's football field Wednesday morning. Additional police officers were on hand to ensure safety.

Roughly 500 Albemarle High School (AHS) students walked out into the bus parking lot. There, they raised their voices to demand school safety.

"We wanted to use our voice and walk out today as well, and join them in their movement," AHS student Choetsow Tenzin said.

"That could have happened anywhere. It could have been Albemarle. It could've been anywhere," said AHS student Melinda Hicks.

Several of those students told NBC29 that no matter what your political party affiliation is, everybody should want to make public schools safer.

Some AHS students say they plan to walk out again in April, and are encouraging people to contact their district representatives.

"If somebody thinks that assault weapons should be banned, they should let legislatures know that. If they want to arm teachers, they should let legislatures know that," said Hicks.

"The Parkland students were really inspiring how they have kept this movement going," AHS student Camellia Pastore said.

"Students get written off as being too young or uneducated enough to take a stand in what they believe in. I think this is one of those chances where students have to say something," said Tenzin.

University of Virginia students also walked out of classes to show support for the Parkland victims.

"This issue of gun violence can destroy communities," said UVA Student Council President Sarah Kenny.

"It shouldn't be a Democrat or Republican issue. It should be an issue everyone cares about because people are dying because of gun violence," student council member Megha Karthikeyan said.

Students, faculty, and staff gathered on the UVA Lawn to remember the 17 lives lost. After the demonstration, people were invited inside the Rotunda to write letters to their lawmakers, asking for more gun control.

“We're not saying that guns inherently are bad, that we should have no guns in the United States, but we're saying that there should be certain kind of check points and procedures, just like an individual’s operating a vehicle, said Kenny.

Students in the Shenandoah Valley are also participating in National School Walkout. They walked out of classes, but did not leave the school buildings.

“It was really beautiful because everybody was really quiet like we wanted them to be, and so it wasn't just an excuse to get out of class, which a lot of people were worried about. Everybody there knew what they were there for, you know, because we're fighting for our safety," said Lee High School student Cece Bernard.

Superintendents at Augusta County, Waynesboro and Staunton schools cited safety concerns. Those school leaders shared statements of support, and offered a safe place for students to either protest guns or memorialize the victims of Parkland shooting.

Many of the demonstrations included reading aloud the names of the 17 killed, as well as a moment of silence.