Hundreds of students at Hayes High School participated in the National School Walkout and gathered in the stadium to read the names of those killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and for a moment of silence.
Students left their fourth-period classes at 9:55 a.m. and walked to the stadium at 10 a.m., where they gathered in the snow and 27-degree temperature.
During the event, Caitlyn Ashley, a senior and one of the event’s organizers, read a poem she had written for the event.
“…We want them to know that we can stand and we will stand,” Ashley said. “We will stand for safe schools. We stand with Parkland… We stand together, with each other and for each other, we will stand.”
After the poem, the organizers of the walkout read the names of the 17 people who were killed in the Feb. 14 shooting and then held a moment of silence for those victims.
After the moment of silence, Anthony Matus, a senior, urged students to register to vote when they turn 18.
“Walking out makes a point, but it doesn’t actually affect legislation,” Matus said.
Adryán Rojas, a junior, also wrote a letter to Ohio senators about supporting legislature that would prevent school shootings and said any student who wanted to could add their signature to it.
Several students made and held signs during the event. The signs included messages of support for Parkland and calls to action to prevent further school shootings.
Hayes Principal Richard Stranges said he was impressed by the students and their resolve, particularly their willingness to stand in the cold. He added no students complained to him and told him that the victims of Parkland suffered more.
Stranges said he discussed the walkout with the staff at Hayes and said students shouldn’t be punished for walking out of class to participate.
“As long as the walkout is part of a national movement, nonviolent, and the message was about supporting the victims of Parkland, we will support them and they will not be punished,” Stranges said. “They wanted to make it grassroots and organic. I think their message was consistent, that they wanted to support the victims of Parkland.”
Mallorie Watts, a senior at Hayes, said she decided to take part in the walkout to show solidarity with the victims of Parkland and to send a message to representatives on the local, state and national level.
“The primary purpose of the walkout was a remembrance of the 17 lives that were lost due to Parkland,” Watts said. “However, another narrative of the walkout was to show that enough is enough. How many more lives have to be taken until our leaders make a change? We feel that shootings are becoming all too common, and we are growing up in a climate where is it part of everyday life. Another goal of the walkout was to inspire my peers to take action.”
Watts said the walkout was just the first step, and she hopes her fellow students get out and vote. Watts added she thought the walkout went well.
“I think the walkout turned out to be great,” Watts said. “… There were moments that I’d look into the crowd of my classmates and I saw faces of those that I wouldn’t have thought would show up to something like this. It was something that will stick with me. I think it shows how we all really just want the same thing, and we shouldn’t let party lines divide us.”
After the event, Ashley said she wrote the poem after seeing the videos of the Parkland shooting and said she hoped her poem reached her classmates.
“I hope they felt something,” Ashley said. “Whether that is anger, sadness or strength. All I can hope for is that my words bring emotion to people, like art. Today, I wanted to express that the fear, anger, sadness will not cripple us, but we will stand tall and walk the same.”
The Associated Press reports that more than 2,000 high-school age protesters observed 17 minutes of silence while sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House on Wednesday as part of the national event.
According to @740Walkout, the Twitter account for the event, another walkout is planned for April 20.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.