Dozens of students across Mid-Michigan walked out of class Wednesday to protest gun violence in response to last month’s massacre of 17 people at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas high School.
In nearly 3,000 protests nationwide, students from the elementary to college level took up the call in a variety of ways. Some planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. Others held demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Massachusetts and Georgia and Ohio, students said they'll head to the statehouse to lobby for new gun regulations.
Students from the Midland Community Schools and districts across Mid-Michigan planned on being a part of the national demonstration.
The school district sent out information about why it could cause problems, citing weather and missing class. Some schools have threatened suspensions for any student that walks out without permission.
Around 10 a.m. dozens of students lined up outside Midland High School holding signs that read “Stop the silence, end gun violence.”
There were also a group of adults just outside the campus showing their support for the students. Midland Police were stationed outside the building as well.
"For the first time in a while it had really shook me to my core," said Anne LaForet, junior.
She said she has been nervous to go to school since the Florida shooting.
"People's lives matter and I think that's for all of us. That we all deserve to feel safe in schools," LaForet said.
That is why she and her fellow classmates organized a student walkout.
"We were really surprised by how many people came outside, especially despite the cold weather. And we're just so happy to see fellow support from students and the community as well," said Emily Hanson, senior. "A major component of lives lost to gun violence is students and we also just all felt responsible, like it was our duty to end this and take on the leadership on our own."
Throughout the event students were encouraged to write letters to local Congress members and to pay tribute to the 17 victims whose lives were lost at Stoneman Douglas.
Ethan Bruce, student organizer, said he wants people to know this is not just about taking away guns.
"No one's advocating for banning guns outright obviously. But there are clear reforms that need to be passed soon," Bruce said.
Superintendent Michael Sharrow said gymnasiums at both Midland High and Dow High will be used to honor Stoneman Douglas High School with a “letter writing promotion.”
The students who participated in the walk out gathered at a table outside the school to grab the form.
The national walk out was scheduled to be 17 minutes long to represent all the lives lost in the Florida shooting.
At Hemlock Middle School, a loud speaker announcement said students will be participating in a “Google chatroom” during their fourth hour. The students will spend 17 minutes answering questions and opening communication about what elected officials can do about school safety and gun violence.
At Pinconnning High School, a group of students walked out of class at 10:55 with the presence of some school staff and the Pinconning Police Department. The students walked to the track field and stood in a group for 17 minutes to honor those killed in Florida.
The Central Campus of Grand Blanc Community Schools was placed in secure mode in anticipation of the walkout.
"This decision was made after consultation with local law enforcement and in the interest of maintaining a safe school environment as the walkout could have caused a potentially dangerous situation for students," the district said.
The school resource officer at Grand Blanc Community High School received information from a student that someone would get hurt if the walkout took place, according to the Grand Blanc Police Department.
That information was received about 10 minutes before the planned walkout.
"We appreciate the fact that a student was brave enough to bring this information forward and share it with our SRO. The timing of the information was unfortunate in the fact that the SRO did not have time to follow up on the threat before a decision was made," police said.
The nature of the threat remains under investigation.
Taylor Bradshaw is a student at Heritage High School in Saginaw Township. While her school didn't allow students to protest outside, the district did host a 17 minute event in the gym.
"We really wanted the peers to come together and make a positive impact instead of just leaving this all alone," Bradshaw said.
The district cited weather and safety concerns for the reason it was held indoors.
After school Bradshaw and her friends took the march a step further and remembered each victim in the Florida shooting by letting go of balloons.
"Hopefully we can help with mental health because that's a big part of all of this," Bradshaw said.
As the last balloon was let into the air, Bradshaw remains optimistic her generation will be the ones to end gun violence in schools for good.
"We want to make this stuff stop happening. We don't want to be seen as the generation where everything came to an end and everyone was afraid to go to their own school," Bradshaw said.
In Cass City the public schools took a similar approach to the walkouts. The schools provided students the gym to use for the gun violence revolt.
"We want our kids to come to school safe. We need to have discussion on how that is going to happen. This national movement out of respect for the victims of school violence and our kids showed a great deal of respect for them," Cass City Superintendent Jeff Hartel said.
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