For 17 minutes Wednesday, Andrew Jackson High School’s halls were filled with students listening to the names of their peers who were killed last month in Florida.
“I never thought that it would be a day that I would be walking out of class in honor of 17 individuals that were murdered in a senseless crime,” said senior Makaylen Crosby, 18. “I never thought that I would see the day that going to school would be more dangerous than it was fun.”
I never thought that I would see the day that going to school would be more dangerous than it was fun.
Makaylen Crosby, Andrew Jackson High School senior
The National Student Walkout was held one month after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day. The surviving students have taken the lead in an ongoing nationwide protest to keep schools safe from gun violence.
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Organizers of National Student Walkout, including the Women’s March and Women’s March Youth, called for students, teachers and administrators to walk out of schools for 17 minutes Wednesday, starting at 10 a.m. That’s one minute for each person killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
During the event at Andrew Jackson, the names and biographies of each of the 17 victims were read over the loud speaker as students stood or sat silently in the halls.
Senior Diamond McDovow, 17, said the moment shows the victims are more than just a list of names or a statistic.
“It let us know who they were,” she said. “It’s not just taking time out of class; it’s for us to know who these people are. I’m a student, too, and this could happen to any school.”
Lancaster County high schools embraced the walkout as a way students could honor the Florida victims, said David Knight, district spokesperson.
Indian Land High School students held a 17-minute silent class exchange at 10 a.m., followed by the ringing of the school bell 17 times to honor the victims, Knight said. Indian Land High School students were allowed to go to the commons area of the school during the walkout time.
Crosby said the walkout was for more than honoring the victims in Florida.
“It’s to show that violence in schools needs to stop,” she said. “I was thinking it could have been me. It hit hard.”
Lancaster County also has experienced gun violence. Some Lancaster leaders describe the violence in the area as comparable to the wanton shootings of the “wild, wild West.”
The Lancaster County School District implemented random use of metal detectors throughout campuses in the fall amid the rise of shootings.
“There was a spike in the number of gun-related fatalities involving young people (in the community),” Bryan Vaughn, director of safety and transportation for the district, said in October.
Vaughn said district officials understand schools are a part of the community, and whatever happens in the Lancaster area may filter into campuses.
Not all local students chose to participate in Wednesday’s walkout.
Nation Ford High School senior Aidan Puzzio, 17, said he did not support the walkout’s goal of advocating for “policy change that infringes upon rights in the Second Amendment.”
“While it was a horrible tragedy, walking out is not the answer,” Puzzio said.
Other area schools handled the walkout differently.
Rock Hill school administrators worked with student leaders to form a safe way for students’ voices to be heard, said Mychal Frost, district spokesperson.
“Each school has developed plans to support students and are even considering a forum with local law enforcement and elected officials to have a more impactful conversation at a later date,” Frost wrote in a statement.
Several students at Rock Hill High School walked out Wednesday and shared photos and videos on social media. Members of the press were not allowed on York County school campuses Wednesday.
In Fort Mill, school leaders spoke with students to gauge their interest in participating, said Joe Burke, spokesman for the school district.
“Any walkout taking place on school grounds will be a student-led voluntary event and will not include the participation of staff. School and district staff do not organize or participate in demonstrations or protests,” a statement reads. “We do recognize and support students’ constitutional rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. It is our plan to keep the focus on teaching and learning in the classroom while providing a safe environment for students who choose to exercise their rights.”
Fort Mill students were not allowed to leave campus during the walkout, Burke wrote in a prepared statement. Students who chose not to participate were instructed to remain in their classrooms.
“Some students have decided to use this time to create well wishes and remembrances of the victims to be sent to Florida,” Burke wrote.
Crosby said the walkout sends a message.
“Today, as we walk out in honor of those that are no longer with us, let’s remember not to take life for granted, to love those around us and always live life to fullest,” she said.
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082