Thousands of students across the nation commemorated the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre by walking out of class Friday.
Students of Academy of the Canyons and multiple Hart district schools joined their fellow peers in a national rally, walking out of their classrooms to gather and read the names of the Parkland school shooting victims with a 17-minute moment of silence.
An estimated 130 of the 450 students on the Academy of the Canyons campus chose to walk out of class Friday.
“To those who didn’t walk out, I understand,” organizing member and AOC student Danielle Bricker said, citing issues students had with truancy, parents or the exhibition of their political ideals.
Many students who walked out at the academy opted to express their views at the scheduled open mic.
“We came together to stand in unity to ensure that individuals who shouldn’t have guns can no longer access them,” Bricker added. “This is a nonpartisan issue that comes down to lives and the best course of action to protect those lives.”
David Caldwell, spokesman for the William S. Hart Union High School, said Friday was a normal school day that students used to rally around a national movement, which called for gun reform and other measures to protect students.
Columbine High School chose to close its doors Friday in honor of the 12 students and lone teacher who lost their lives 19 years ago to the day. It has done so every year since the tragedy, according to the Associated Press.
Organizing members of the rally weren’t hesitant to point out the similarities of the Santa Clarita Valley to the likes of Parkland and Columbine, where the community includes residents who have pushed for extensive gun control and those who seek to arm teachers. Organizers also sought to dispel the myth that they were walking out to repeal the second amendment.
“We respect the Second Amendment as tradition,” said Sophia Davies, another student organizer. “We can protect gun rights while still having stricter enforcement on who can access firearms. Look at Japan.”
A student who spoke at the Academy of the Canyons walkout said she was recently told by somebody that their collection of assault weapons is no different than any woman’s closet of shoes. She added that she didn’t know how to respond, but she was mad that this is the world she lives in.
“We are required to risk our lives and come to school and sit in a history class with the purpose of learning from our ancestors’ mistakes so we don’t repeat them,” Bella Youmazzo said in a speech at the ceremony. “We make the same mistakes over and over.”
California students alone have experienced 33 school shootings since Columbine, which have led to 51 deaths and 136 injuries, according to the California Teachers Association. A total of 1,300 children in the United States die from gunshot wounds every year, and an additional 6,000 suffer injuries.
“There’s change that must be made,” Youmazzo said before admitting that she’s a suburban girl with no answers to the problem.
“I’m a white suburban girl with privileges that others might not have,” Bricker also shared. “Although we feel safe, there are others who might not be so fortunate.”
Bricker and Davies said they hope the walkout acts as a catalyst, empowering young people everywhere to use their voice to better their world.
“We’ve been told our whole lives that we can’t do it,” Bricker said. “That changed today, and I hope my fellow students felt that.”