About 20 students from Shoreham-Wading River High School on Friday joined thousands of their peers across the country in a school walkout, serving as a call for an end to gun violence, in and out of schools.
The student-led movement marks the 19th anniversary of the April 20, 1999, shooting at Columbine High School in which two students killed 13 people.
Students left their classrooms 10 a.m. with permission to do so from their parents, otherwise they faced suspension.
They stood behind yellow caution tape near the entrance of the school on Route 25A, with school security and Suffolk County Police Department officers on watch and directing traffic. They led 13 minutes of silence to remember those killed at Columbine High School.
Students, some with hands in their sweatshirts to ward off the 45-degree weather, took turns sharing why it was important to take part in the walkout.
Among them was junior Reese Manghan, who told her peers they should be proud of themselves for organizing. She also gave credit to their school’s administration for allowing them to organize the walkout and for providing security measures.
Reese acknowledged that not everyone has the same ideas on how to stop gun violence, but that there was a common conviction among those participating.
“I know that we all agree that what has happened in the United States cannot happen anymore, that we are not going to be the next group of children to watch our peers be shot,” she said.
Speaking later, she said, “We don’t want to be another statistic. We don’t want to be just numbers in the newspaper.”
Students noted the kinds of conversations that they hear in school in the wake of shootings.
Alexa Ibrahim, a junior, said classmates would talk about what part of the school they’d want to be in if there was a shooter on campus. Junior Kayla Napolitano said she hears jokes about being shot in school, which she called a “coping mechanism” to deal with fears of that situation becoming a reality.
“It’s sad that that happens,” she said.
Assemblies were held at the beginning of the week on school safety procedures, including what to do in case of fires, lockdowns and lockouts.
Some students said mental health resources should be more widely available. Others called for bans on assault-style weapons that were used in several mass shootings in recent years, including the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland,Florida, in which 17 people were killed.
“I don’t think everyday citizens should own assault rifles,” Jordan Carroll, a junior said. “They have assault in [the name].”
Two SWR students recounted their fears waiting to hear from friends or families at schools in the Florida school district or nearby were safe.
Mixed messages came from cars passing through the busy intersection. Some drivers honked in support, shouting “Keep up the good work!” “Wildcats rock!” and “Good job, guys!” as they passed east and west.
A few others yelled messages such as, “Go back to class, snowflakes!”
One woman, seeing police cars with flashing lights at the school entrance, stopped and asked, “Is everything OK?”
Student organizers, who created an “swrwalkout” Instagram page, found opposition in comments posted on their photos from those who disagreed that the walkout would be effective or were not in line with a gun reform message.
“You don’t have to be liberal to not want to get shot,” Reese said. Threats of shootings, as well as a bomb threat, floated around school last year.
DesiEmmanual Desire, a senior, said she took part in the walkout was for two reasons.
“I don’t want you guys to become 13 minutes of silence,” she said to her fellow students. And, “I don’t want want my friends who are afraid to say this to feel that they’re alone.”
Photo caption: About 20 Shoreham-Wading River High School students joined the national walkout. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)