Area students took a stand against school violence through a variety of activities held on school campuses as part of Wednesday’s National School Walkout held to honor the lives of the 17 students and faculty members killed during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The national movement marked a month since the tragedy and students were encouraged to join others in schools across nation at 10 a.m. to ‘walk out’ out of their classrooms for 17 minutes as a remembrance and stand against school and gun violence.
“We are the students who can make change happen,” said West Carteret High School junior Jamison Paylor, who stopped and signed a banner that read ‘#NEVERAGAIN end gun violence.’
Paylor was one of the speakers at a student-led program held in the school’s auditorium to allow students to come together in a show of unity and to voice their concerns.
Paylor said it is time for action and not just talking about the need to end the violence.
“I am tired of thoughts and prayers because thoughts and prayers don’t stop the bullies,” he said during his comments to the students gathered.
Rallies and walkouts were held across the country, including one at Stoneman Douglas High School, as students left their classrooms to remember and to call for action.
The National School Walkout is an initiative organized by Women’s March Youth Empower to protest gun violence and calls for tougher gun control.
Principals at Onslow County’s high schools worked with student organizations to allow for participation in the walkout through student-led activities on their campuses. Measures were taken to ensure safety and to minimize disruption to the school day.
Onslow County School did not allow media representatives on any of the school campuses to cover the activities planned.
Carteret County Public Schools also allowed for participation through organized, student-led activities and provided for media access at West Carteret High School.
Superintendent Mat Bottoms said a number of activities were planned at the middle and high schools, such as a circle of unity with students holding hands around the school at Morehead Middle School and students at Newport Middle School ‘tying it on for kindness’ by the students wearing ties.
While the activities did not involve walking outside the school campus in rallies, Bottoms said they were organized and presented by the students and focused on kindness and unity.
Bottoms said the activities allowed for students to participate in a positive and productive way.
At the West Carteret High School program, the school chorus performed the song ‘Give Us Hope’ and 17 students walked on stage to hold the candles that were lit in memory of the 17 people killed in the Florida high school shooting. The candles were extinguished after 30 seconds of silence.
WCHS senior Brooke Rogers, a member of the Associated Student Body, organized the program and spoke along with Emerson Woodhall.
Rogers said the movement among students has sparked controversy because it has been called a protest, but she said protests such as the Civil Rights movements and Women’s Suffrage movement have shaped the country.
And, often, groundbreaking movements start with students and young people.
“Students have the right to demand safety when they are at school, and the only way that can happen is if we make it clear to our government that we will not tolerate anything less," Rogers said. “Even if you are too young to vote, you still have a voice. We should be proud to stand up for what we know is right and to make our voices heard. Thank you for standing up, speaking up, and walking out. Together we will make #NeverAgain a reality.”
Rogers touched on the controversial issue of gun control.
“While this is a very controversial topic, it is often because people don’t really know what gun control means,” she said. “Gun control is not an attempt of the government to take away all of your guns. We aren’t trying to repeal the Second Amendment. Gun control simply means to place more regulations on how people are able to obtain guns. There is something inherently wrong with the fact a 19-year-old student was able to buy an assault rifle and carry out a mass shooting.”
Participating in the program was voluntary.
At Jones Senior High School, students participated with a moment of silence.
Reporter Jannette Pippin can be reached at 910-382-2557 or Jannette.Pippin@JDNews.com.