Dozens of Dobie Jr. High School students participated in a national walkout today to protest school violence and advocate for gun control. The protest started at 10 a.m. Teachers and administrators who watched over students during the protest estimated that about 50 students participated in the protest.
“I walked out knowing one of the biggest school shootings happened 19 years ago and still, 19 years later, nothing has stopped this problem!” said Hope Carl, 8th grader.
“Personally I never thought I would be part of a walkout, I really had no idea about the walkout until right before. The teachers really didn’t condone the event, but they definitely didn’t tell us to hide our opinions. Voices need to be heard,” said Camille Jackson, 8th grader.
Some students walked out of their classrooms to the front of the school and some walked to the back of the school. Students stood silently together as administrators and teachers watched over them. Students were told to return to class after 17 minutes. No students will have absences because of the walkout because SCUCISD decided not to give negative consequences for the protest.
Darian Lester, an 8th grade Dobie student who protested, said she was excited about the protest and she’s glad she did it. “It was calming, yet nerve-wracking,” she said.
Many students said they stayed in their classes for fear of negative consequences from the school or at home. “I didn’t walk out because my dad is a cop. If he would have found out I did it I would have gotten in huge trouble,” said Madelyn Cordova, 8th grader.
Mr. Vernon Simmons, Dobie Jr. High School Principal, spoke to some of the students. He told them about how students can make a difference by showing kindness, and even if there is a small change it could make a difference in society. “I’m not against a walkout, but if we have a voice, we need to make a change. Swap the negative to the positive,” Mr. Simmons said in an interview after the walkout.
Word about the protest spread on social media. Arianna Baldwin, 8th grader, chose not to walk out because she didn’t want negative consequences. “It was all over social media. Kids were talking about walking out at exactly 10 a.m. to protest.”
Salvador Ramos, 8th grader, said he heard about the protest from one of his friends. “I realized I had to attend because I do believe in stricter gun laws,” he said.
Simmons said that school and district officials had been preparing for the walkout. “We have been talking about it, the district figuring out how to handle it. We as a district decided to encourage the kids to do something positive,” he said.
Some Dobie students were confused and didn’t know what the purpose of the walkout was. A few students found out about the protest during class and followed the crowd.
Autumn Yoder, 8th grader, said the protest had special meaning to her because gun violence in Florida affected her personally. “I lost a long time friend in the shooting; it was heartbreaking to find her name on the victim list. Seeing people out there made me cry because I remembered Cara,” she said.
Local media coverage shared news coverage about high schools participating in the protests that were on the 19th anniversary of the school shooting at Columbine, Colorado.
When asked about his thoughts on gun control, Simmons said preventing gun violence was complicated.
“The stricter laws . . .we can put laws in places to make it more difficult, but people who want guns, they’ll find a way to get guns. And it’s not all mental health issues,” he said.
Nevaeh Riojas, 7th grader, said students should take steps to make a difference in their own ways. “Simple acts of kindness could save lives,” she said.