#Enough #NeverAgain

Holding small signs that said “Enough” and “Never Again,” Avonworth Middle-High School students file out of the building at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, part of a national, student-led effort to protest the lack of effective gun laws. The walk-out was held exactly one month after 17 people were gunned down at a Florida high school. Photo by Connie Rankin for The Citizen

One month to the day after 17 students were gunned down at a Parkland, FL high school, thousands of students across the nation walked out of their classrooms Wednesday morning in solidarity with the national youth-driven effort to stop gun violence by telling their elected officials to implement effective gun control laws before another child is killed.

Among those standing up and walking out were a large group of students at Avonworth Middle-Senior High School. Leaving the school at precisely 10 a.m., they gathered just outside the building to applaud the call to stop gun violence, as well as take the opportunity to write letters to their legislators, the President, and even the National Rifle Association (NRA), which donates millions of dollars to politicians who block gun control legislation. Organizers also provided information on voter registration for students who are now, or soon will be, 18 years old.

Students at Northgate High School opted not to join the walk-out, and instead chose to recognize the Parkland victims with 17 minutes of silence. The district initially threatened to discipline any students who did walk out, but later decided that the students would not be punished.

At Avonworth, student organizer Hadley Holcomb spoke to the crowd. “We are here because we do not feel safe in our schools,” she said. “We've had enough.”

She reminded her classmates, “We are the next generation of voters. We can change the world. But how many of us have to die before it turns?”

“Those who want change WILL get it,” she said.

At Northgate, high school principal Bryan Kyle met with “student leaders” on Monday, and asked them what they wanted to do with regard to the national walk-out. The students, he said, had concerns about their safety if they walked out, and decided instead to hold a moment of silence for each of the 17 Parkland students killed.

The district made the following statement: "The student leaders of Northgate MS/HS school decided not to participate in the National Walkout Day in support of the victims from Parkland, Fl. The students will show support by participating in a 17 minute moment of silence to commemorate the 17 lives lost on Feb. 14th. We are requesting that all students remain in the building. Students who walk out of the building will face disciplinary consequences."

Despite that warning, about 15 students chose to walk out of the building at 10 a.m. Principal Bryan Kyle said that they sat quietly on the benches outside the entrance to the school, and were very respectful of the motivation behind the walk-out.

The entire school then participated in 17 minutes of silence, broken only by the names of the students killed in Florida being announced, one every minute.

“The whole building was silent,” said Kyle, who noted that the students clearly grasped the significance of what they were doing. “The kids were emotional,” he said.

Northgate will try to educate its students on the action element of the issue with a town hall-type meeting on April 20, when students will be able to speak with legislators, asking questions and voicing opinions.

Avonworth will hold a “Safety Information Night” on Monday, March 19, 6:30-7:30 p.m. in the Primary Center gym to provide information on safety measures being taken by the district.