At 10 a.m., students poured out of Ithaca High School’s classrooms and formed a line on the sidewalk outside. The high-schoolers joined their peers across the country as they marched out of their classrooms to protest Congress’ lack of action on gun control.
The students, along with community members who came to witness the event, stood in silence for 17 minutes next to the school’s bus lane— “one for every victim of the Parkland shooting,” according to Megan Hay, an organizer of the walkout. A group of middle schoolers also walked to the high school to participate in the walkout.
The #ENOUGH: National School Walkout aims to “protest Congress’ refusal to take action on the gun violence epidemic plaguing our schools and neighborhoods,” according to the website for Women’s March Youth Empower, which created the national walkout. In particular, IHS and other schools are responding to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida on February 14, according to NBC News.
Wren Kingsley, a co-host of the IHS walkout’s Facebook event, described the experience in her classroom before students walked out.
“My teacher was like, ‘Okay, so who’s gonna go?’” she said. “And everyone raised their hands.”
Kingsley said that just before 10 a.m., she and her classmates saw people walking in the hallway, so her class then “just stood up and walked out.”
Kingsley also described how she was thankful that New York State has “strong” gun legislation.
“We’re really lucky to live in a state that has strong gun laws, and I’m lucky that I don’t have to worry about coming to school and getting shot or anything like that,” she said.
“I shouldn’t have to be lucky to not get shot during school. It should be a given,”she added.
Autum Niver, a ninth-grade student at IHS, said she believes “there needs to be a change.”
“I felt that me being there is showing that I support that we need to change the laws and that we need to change gun control,” she said. “And we need to just show that we have the empathy for the kids that died, and that we can’t just blame it on mental illness and we can’t just blame it on people of disabilities or of people of color, like, we have to show that we need a change, and it needs to come now.”
Community members also participated by standing in a crowd near the end of the bus lane.
They displayed signs saying “Hear Their Voices” and “Keep the Guns Out!”
Kara Eaton, a parent, said she does not believe teachers should “be forced” to keep weapons with them.
“If teachers really feel they need to, that should be their choice, I guess,” she told The Sun. “But I personally don’t feel that that’s a way to bring the message. I think we need to provide better schools, more funding for schools, more funding for mental health, and stopping these … making these gun laws stricter for underage people and people with mental health and criminal backgrounds.”
Chelsey Kingsley, Wren Kingsley’s mother, said the government can do more to “protect children in school.”
“I mean what it really boils down to is I think that legislation allows for these kinds of tragedies to happen,” she said.
Chelsey said she was at the walkout because she wanted to “stand with the students and for the students.”
“I don’t want them to have to just stick up for themselves,” she said. “I want the adults in this world to stand up for them. And I want legislators to stick up for the children. You know — all the way up. They shouldn’t have to be out here standing and trying to stand up for themselves.”
Megan Hay, a co-host of the IHS walkout’s Facebook event, told The Sun that the walkout is a reflection of what she has learned at her school.
“At Ithaca High School, I feel like they do a really good job, for a public school, teaching us to use our voices and to be active in stuff that we feel passionate about,” she said. “It was a really good way for us to be like, ‘Hey, we’re using our voices, we’re advocating for something we believe in, and this is a cause that we feel strongly about.’”
Hay and Wren decided to create the walkout while the two were on February break together in Florida.
They created a Facebook event page, and later met with IHS administrators to talk about the walkout. Hay told The Sun that the school said it cannot “condone anything” because it is a public school, and is not allowed to express “political views.”
“They basically told us that the school can’t condone anything, and that they’re not technically in support of it, but they weren’t going to do anything to discipline us,” Hay said. “We weren’t going to get suspended or anything.”
According to Hay, administrators said participation in the walkout would be considered an “unexcused absence for the period.”
Hay said the walkout allows student to show they have voices, despite their inability to vote.
“We are a school just like any of these other schools that have been subjected to this tragedy, and so, I feel like we as students wanted to say, just because we can’t vote doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice. Our safety matters, and we aren’t taking this laying down.”