Hundreds of students around Grays Harbor County participated in school walkouts Wednesday morning as part of a nationwide movement to protest gun violence and stand in solidarity with the victims of February’s shooting in Florida.
At Aberdeen High School, about 75 students participated in the 10 a.m. protest, which lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed in the Florida shooting. After gathering above the main school entrance, student Nadia Wirta addressed the crowd.
“Like one of our posters says, 18th century laws should not regulate 21st century weapons,” she said. “We walk out because we don’t want to see students, or any of the people standing here get hurt. We don’t want anyone to go through the pain and suffering of watching classmates die in front of our eyes.”
Wirta then read the names of each of the 17 student and school staff victims in last month’s shootings. She was followed by several other students who spoke out in favor of stricter gun laws to prevent shootings.
“In our Constitution, we have the right to bear arms. But more important than that is we have a right to feel safe in our schools,” said 9th-grader Kyler Kuhl. “So let’s all work together to get stricter gun laws. Let’s keep our students safe.”
Another student, sophomore CJ Hicks, said she believes their local walkout will make a difference, despite it being smaller in scale compared to those in big cities.
“I’ve had people tell me this walkout was going to be useless, and that having our voices heard at one little school wasn’t going to change anything,” said Hicks. “But the fact that this walkout has become nationwide, I think is really going to hit some people in a place that will help them change these things.”
Hicks later told The Daily World that her family was supportive of her participating in the walkout, and that she is against the selling of AR-15-style rifles, which have been used in 10 mass shootings since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary.
“I really don’t think AR-15s and those kinds of weapons should be on the market for people to get their hands on, it’s just unsafe,” she said.
As the protest took place, Superintendent Alicia Henderson and several other staff members stood by to facilitate, but did not make comments. Wirta later said the turnout was better than she expected, considering that the school informed students they could be served detention or prohibited from sports that day if they walked out.
“Since there are games today and a track meet tomorrow, a lot of people didn’t want to affect their spot,” said Wirta. “From what I also heard, the superintendent sent out an email to all sports teams saying if you have a student who participates in the walkout, they don’t get to participate in sports.”
Henderson said she did not send out an additional email warning athletes they would not be allowed to play if they participated in the walkout.
Multiple other local schools conducted walkouts as well. At Wishkah Valley Elementary/High School, Sophomore Trista Cochran organized a walkout in which 22 students participated. She said the school and principal were “extremely supportive” of them walking out, and that it consisted of students sharing thoughts outside before walking around the school holding signs.
In Hoquiam, Superintendent Mike Villarreal said about 20 students at the high school and 30 in the middle school participated in the walkout, where they simply stood in silence.