Local students participate in national walkout

Published 10:30 am Thursday, March 15, 2018

By J.R. Tidwell / Editor

Seventeen people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

One month later a nationwide mass protest was organized that called for students to walk out of class in protest of gun violence.

Students at local high schools, including Chilton County and Maplesville, participated in the event March 14.

The national walkout encouraged students to protest for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims killed in Parkland, beginning at 10 a.m. across all time zones.

A group of around 100 students gathered outside of Chilton County High School.

“It wasn’t really organized,” said Assistant Principal Rosalyn Dixon. “Some of the teachers started to detect that some of the students wanted to do a walkout. We embraced that.

“We checked around at some other schools, and we said if that’s what the students want to do, it’s their First Amendment right. We asked them to come out.”

Students spoke to their peers gathered in the crowd, with Dixon addressing them before the walkout ended.

“We felt like it was a time to allow the students to reflect and talk to one another while they had that captive audience,” she said. “Some of the students who came to speak in front of everybody, they are not outgoing people. They are kind of introverted. But this allowed the students to have a voice. I think it was a good thing.”

While gun violence was the main point behind the national walkout, CCHS students who gathered for the event spoke on other topics and issues as well.

“They talked about being cognizant of other people’s feelings, being aware of what you say to other people and how you make others feel,” Dixon said. “They talked about getting to know someone and knowing their story before you judge them. They just kind of promoted unity and friendship.”

The speech of a certain student stood out to Dixon at the end of the walkout.

“We had one guy who talked about his parents wanting to move to Florida, but he begged them to stay because he had built friendships here,” she said. “He told them [the other students] that he was glad he got to meet all of them. Some of them don’t have that opportunity to speak to a mass audience and express their appreciation. So it wasn’t all just gun violence and shooting, it was ‘Hey, I’m glad I got to know you’ as well.”

Students at Maplesville High participated in a similar event.

At 9 a.m., students were given the opportunity to go to the school’s auditorium for 17 minutes of silence in honor and memory of victims of the recent Florida school shooting.

“We feel like we are really lucky in Maplesville that we don’t have a lot of security issues, and for that we are fortunate and we need to be thankful for that,” Maplesville High School Principal Steven Hunter said.

Hunter said the time served as a way “to pay our respects to those who lost their lives” during the shooting.

“We had a good many that wanted to do that,” Hunter said.

He said during the 17 minutes the auditorium “was quiet.”

“They were very respectful, and observed just a time of silence,” Hunter said.

Joyanna Love contributed to this story.