Education

Sacramento students join National Student Walkout to protest gun violence after Parkland

Hundreds of students at Kennedy High School in Sacramento left class Friday morning and marched around the campus as part of the National Student Walkout against gun violence.

It was the latest nationwide student protest after a February gun massacre at a Parkland, Fla., high school, and this one was organized to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting that killed 13 people in Colorado.

At Kennedy, students listened to speeches, registered to vote, made posters and marched throughout the morning. They chanted "Enough is enough" and "Hey, hey, ho, ho, the NRA has got to go," as they walked on the sidewalk along Gloria Drive in the Greenhaven neighborhood and around the school.

After the first lap around the school, senior Danke Stroup read the names of legislators who have taken donations from the National Rifle Association. She also encouraged students to talk to voters about unseating those lawmakers.

“We can vote all of these people out if we work together,” she said.

Kennedy High School experienced its own violence scare in March when a student threatened on social media to bomb the campus and shoot classmates. The school was evacuated and closed early on March 16 before authorities determined no bomb was at the school.

The walkout was a way to let students release their anger, Stroup said. “That is why we are doing the marches too, they are scared and they are angry,” she said.

Friday's march generated less participation locally than the National Student Walkout that occurred March 14, one month after the Parkland shooting. Small walkouts were reported at McClatchy High School, Monterey Trail High School and at a middle school in Natomas, while Davis Joint Unified schools held staff-approved student events on campuses throughout the day.

Despite that, about 40 students from Davis High School and 15 from the district’s charter high school left campus to march to Rep. John Garamendi’s Davis offices, said district spokeswoman Maria Clayton. The Democratic congressman wasn't there, but students spoke to him by phone, she said.

Students who left campus and did not return were marked absent, Clayton said.

Stroup and other student organizers have eagerly joined a new wave of youth activism in the United States, sparked by the teenage survivors of the Parkland shooting.

“It’s definitely exciting and politicians are scared, and one thing is, we are going to outlive every single person in Congress,” Stroup said. “We are going to outlive them. We are going to replace them. We are going to vote them out.”

Daniel Fuentes also wants to be part of the movement. "I have a little sister that will be growing up in the schools and I want her to be safe and I don’t want to be worrying about her all the time.”

Friday, he was helping to register students at least 16 years old to vote. State law allows students to preregister to vote at age 16, although they can't cast a ballot until they are 18.

“Registering to vote is the very first step,” said Branden Messick, a member of the Young Democrats club who was helping with the voter registration drive.

The students were helped by Jennifer Hartel of HeadCount, a nonpartisan voter registration organization. HeadCount was assisting with voter drives at 175 schools across the nation Friday.

“We are inspired this year by the youth and student leaders and we are trying to support them in every way we can,” Hartel said.

Kennedy students who walked out were due to receive an unexcused absence, based on a letter Superintendent Jorge Aguilar sent parents Wednesday.

“Conduct that disrupts school operations is not acceptable and will be handled compassionately but firmly, in accordance with our school district’s code of conduct,” he wrote.

Police officers, school staff and administrators kept a watchful eye Friday but didn’t attempt to interfere. A staff member standing outside a classroom pumped her arm in support as the kids marched by.

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