Students walk out to support Parkland, protest gun violence

Students gathered on softball field for walkout.

About 70 Baldwin students walked out of class today as part of a nationwide movement calling for safer schools and stronger gun legislation.

Students left their classes about 9:50 a.m., met in the gym and walked to the softball field. The protest then lasted about 17 minutes, one minute for each of the victims of the Florida school shooting. After it ended, students came back into the building and went to fourth period, which was in progress.

“I was really happy with the outcome, because we weren’t really sure at all how many people would come,” said senior Taylor Donahue, who organized the event with senior and fellow Purbalite editor Zoe Vongtau. “I think it’s really powerful being a part of a national movement. I think we’re part of continuing a discussion about these issues.”

Students who walked out of class were marked with unexcused absences as well as tardies from classes they missed.

Many students, however, stayed home from school today. Over the weekend, district administration said students who wanted to stay home because of safety concerns would be excused. Twenty-seven percent of the student body missed school, Assistant Principal John Saras said.

Meanwhile, senior Matt Dziadyk held a “walk-in” as a counter protest, calling for students to simply walk into school at 7:20 a.m. and proceed to attend classes all day long.

“This was meant to run parallel to the protest and act as satire to it,” Dziadyk said.

As for the walkout, Saras said he thought the event went “as organized and discussed between and amongst district administrators and walkout leaders.”

Junior Grace DeLallo was one of the students who spoke to the crowd during the walkout.

“I gave a five-minute speech about calling attention to this movement. We have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but students can’t pursue those things if there are mass shootings killing us,” she said.

“The energy at the protest was very positive. We were demanding change. We simply want better for students,” DeLallo said.

Students who participated in the walkout said they felt their action was meaningful.

“I’m happy that I did it. I feel a stronger connection to the topic now because we got involved to make a change,” junior Yee Khine said.

Sophomore Abby Fowler said she believes that America needs stronger gun laws.

“Someone’s sign said kids before guns, and I feel that people should value kids’ lives over an object they don’t necessarily need,” Fowler said.

Freshman Molly Pack protested for the safety of students.

“I don’t want to see this happen here or anywhere again,” Pack said.

Junior John Ziegler walked out because he had a personal connection to the Parkland shooting.

“My sister lives right near Parkland and teaches in a nearby school district. I walked out today because I want her classroom and all schools to be safe,” Ziegler said.

Students who were in school but did not participate in the walkout cited a variety of factors.

Dziadyk, who organized the counter-protest, said the walkout would not bring about change.

“The protesters want to see an immediate difference in legislation, but a small protest at one school won’t accomplish anything. By organizing a counter-protest, my goal was to start a debate about the best way of acting in these situations,” he said.

Dziadyk, though the Twitter account @BHSWalkIn, is trying to organize a candlelight vigil to honor victims of school shootings. Discussions in favor or against gun rights or legislation would not be welcomed at the vigil, he said.

For junior Carson Theiret, his parents were opposed, and his perfect attendance streak was at risk.

“I wanted to walk out, but my parents didn’t think it was appropriate to do it during school. Also, an unexcused absence would have broken my perfect attendance record,” Theiret said.

Junior Amber Jones said absences were her concern as well.

“I had a concussion earlier in the year that caused me to miss a lot of school. I’m also going on vacation later, and I didn’t want a walkout to make me have too many absences,” Jones said.

Junior Anna Kosslow supported the ideas of the protest, but feared for safety. She also acknowledged that the weather was a factor.

“By protesting, people are putting themselves in more danger than being inside, where you can lock a door,” she said. “It was also 25 degrees outside.”

Additionally, there were also two large field trips today.

“I had people who told me they would’ve walked out had they been in class to begin with,” Donahue said.

Staff Writer Rachel Stofanak contributed to this report.