Students at all three Valley Stream high schools walked out of class on March 14 as part of the National School Walkout to remember the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago and to call for stricter gun control.
At North High School more than 300 students left the school building to participate in the walkout. Those who did not want to leave class listened to the public announcement system as the names of the 17 victims were read, according to Nithin Seelan. The students who took part in the walkout made posters and ribbons for the event, and had a moment of silence. Students also read the names of the victims, then Seelan spoke about gun control.
“We’re here to start a movement, make a change,” Seelan, a senior at the school, said.
The planning for the walkout took several weeks. Selan said he began planning it a week after the Feb. 21 shooting. “I brought it to the principal, and he was supportive,” Seelan said. Since then, he said, he has been making posters and ribbons to advertise the walk out.
At Central High School, the walkout was a memorial service that turned into a peaceful protest, according to sophomore Miguel Alberca. “They started chanting ‘Enough is Enough,” Alberca said of the more than 50 other students who joined.
The students held up signs, spoke and memorialized the students that were lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on Feb. 14. They also had the names of the 17 victims written on balloons that they released one by one as they said their names.
Alberca said that the students decided to participate in the walkout because they were “fed up with how easy it was for [Nikolas Cruz] to obtain a gun and do what he did.”
“What we’re trying to say and protest is: We want tighter gun show restrictions,” Alberca said.
At South High School, junior Wayne Chen organized a walkout at the last minute. “We lacked leadership overall for this,” he said. So the night before, Chen went to Staples and bought 300 posters, which he handed out in school before classes began. His efforts paid off, he said, because more than 100 students walked outside.
“I was blown away by the support that we got,” Chen said.
At the walkout, Chen gave a speech, and another student spoke about her two family members that are students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas. The students also had a moment of silence for 17 seconds.
“It was to memorialize the students that were killed in Parkland,” Chen said. “They wanted people to take action.”
Chen added that gun control is why he decided to hold this walkout. “Enough is enough,” he said.
The school also held a memorial ceremony earlier in the day, which Chen felt was a way to deter students from walking out. “I really do feel like the principal and her staff didn’t want people to walk out, and that’s why she organized the program,” he said.
Superintendent Bill Heidenreich also said on Tuesday that any student who left class for the walkout would get an unexcused absence, but the students said they were not deterred. “I have no trouble getting in trouble for something I believe in,” Chen said. “There are some things that are bigger than a detention or a cut.”
Scott Brinton contributed to this story.