LOS ANGELES — Chanting slogans, toting signs and at times linking arms, thousands of Southland students walked out of class March 14 to honor the 17 victims of last month’s school shooting in Florida and to call for action to improve campus safety.
They did it at Lynwood High, where students gathered in the school quad. At Venice High, students gathered on the lawn in front of the school. In Culver City, it was the high school football stadium.
Lynwood High students heard student leaders speak while 17 students held signs bearing the names of the shooting victims at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
At Venice High School, hundreds of students walked peacefully onto the front lawn of the campus facing Venice Boulevard. Some students manned tables urging their classmates to write letters to Congress and sign a petition supporting research on gun violence.
On an outdoor stage, students holding orange daisies stepped forward and read off the names of the 17 people killed during the Florida shooting. Others held a long banner listing the names of all the victims.
Fourteen student chair-desks were placed on the lawn in front of three teachers’ desks, signifying the Parkland victims.
“We don’t need 17 more,” one student said as he walked by the display.
Many students wore orange T-shirts with the words, “Venice Stands with Parkland,” and showed maps of California and Florida linked by a dotted line.
Senior student April Cuarenta wore a sticker that read, “I wrote a letter to Congress.” She told City News Service she wrote to House Speaker Paul Ryan to tell him, “I’m tired of living in fear coming to school” and urging him to allow a debate on gun laws.
Several students told CNS they intend to keep pressing the gun violence issue, and they planned to spell out “#Enough” on the football field in coming days.
Similar scenes played out across Southern California and the country as students marked the one-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting and called for federal action to make schools safer and to enact tough gun-control laws. The gatherings at some schools included rows of 17 empty chairs, honoring each of the Parkland victims.
At Miguel Contreras Learning Complex near downtown Los Angeles, students chanted “No More Guns” while holding up signs with slogans such as “Enough is Enough” and “Our Demand: Background checks for all gun purchases.” Organizers of the school walkout said they were advocating for a national assault weapons ban, universal background checks and a Centers for Disease Control study on guns.
At Hamilton High School in the Palms area, hundreds of students walked out of their classes and some parents joined them in protest.
“I’m really proud of all the students at Hamilton High School … and they are unified in this,” one parent told Fox11. “This is the defining movement of their generation. As you said, we’re happy to talk to our kids about this [issue]. And what I said to my son is not much different than what a lot of parents said to their kids: ‘Do what’s right. Do what you have to do.’”
At Eagle Rock High School, several hundred students walked out of classes. A circle of chairs was set up in the quad area, each bearing the name of one of the 17 people who died in the shooting.
A senior named Anthony told Fox11: “I just feel like it’s really an emotional thing, because … school shootings in general are happening more and more often; and the fact that we’re able to appreciate and value these lives that were lost is just a really amazing thing … and I’m just really glad that we are able to show this support.”
The walkouts, held at 10 a.m., were intended to last 17 minutes — one for each victim of the Parkland shooting. But many schools worked with students to turn the remembrance into a teaching moment, with assemblies featuring student and administrator speeches.
Many of the events also included calls for students to write to legislators and demand action on gun control.
The events fueled a growing empowerment movement for students, whose voices have resonated nationally following the Parkland shooting.
“The students have the power to change the narrative that is going on in our country,” 2018 California Teacher of the Year Kirsten Farrell told students, parents and educators at the Venice High School gathering.
The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement, encouraging students “to express themselves” but noting “it is imperative students do it in a manner that is respectful to fellow classmates and Los Angeles residents, as well as remain on their respective campuses during the demonstration.”
“The department understands the need for students to participate in peaceful dialogue within the parameters of school administrators” but “the safety of our young adults relies on their willingness to remain on campus under the protection of the Los Angeles Unified School Police Department,” the LAPD statement said.
Despite that warning, dozens of students walked off campus apparently from the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies magnet school near 18th Street and La Cienega Boulevard. The students appeared to be staying on sidewalks, but they were being closely watched by police.