Students Hope to Make a Statement by Walking Out


It has been a month since the biggest school shooting occurred in Parkland, Fla. People all around the world have been affected by this, wanting change.

On March 14, some South Pointe students chose to walk out during their first block from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m as a part of the #Enough! National School Walkout. Others joined the walkout after first block.

This idea came from EMPOWER, the youth branch of Women’s March. The goal is to provide solidarity for those lives taken and to show their unwillingness to support the current gun control laws. They claim that all over the United States, there are around 2,500 planned walk outs. EMPOWER has used twitter to reach a grand audience that may be interested in participating.

The walk out lasted for 17 minutes, one minute for each life taken during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School incident.

Students were willing to miss a portion of their second block class to participate in a nationwide protest. They commemorated the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting and the lives taken. They want to press the idea of stricter gun control to prevent violence in schools. Another idea students expressed was about the bigger picture of school safety in general, including readiness in case the worst happens and student unity to speak up in case of perceived threats.

The district officials involved met with representatives from Rock Hill police Friday to come up with a response to the planned walkout in case students locally responded. Teachers and staff were notified on how the district wanted the schools to respond to any walk outs by email Tuesday afternoon.

South Pointe Principal Al Leonard made an announcement to students on the morning show today, bringing up the walk out and what would happen for those who participated, as per the district’s decision. He said on the morning news show that doing civic duty is a “right thing to do,” but the school has to follow policy for tardies and leaving class without permission so that it does not set precedents for the future. Leonard explains that if faculty members believe it is okay for students to leave class, then it will encourage the students to miss class during other times. There could be another worthy cause next week students wanted to walk out for, and the district cannot be in the business of setting the precedent of supporting walkouts for only certain causes. If students are out of their class for 15 minutes, it will be considered as cutting class, and there will be consequences, he warned over the television.

Knowing about the consequences, around 75 students still wanted to show what they stood for by gathering in the gallery. Others, fearing a referral, wanted to participate, but said they did not want anything going on their discipline records.

Students quietly sit in the gallery after they walked out of their classrooms, while others stand during the walkout. photo credit: Emma Gilleland

Senior Elle Gilleland, who chose to participate in this event, said that she was doing it for the “solidarity for students who have died.” She continued to say that she does not want anything like this to happen ever again and by protesting, they are showing how they want the government regulations to change. By doing this, it brings attention to mental illness and how mental illness services should be provided to high schoolers who need it.

Senior Mary Hope Ballou states, “I felt like it was important for people to express their opinions in a peaceful way, but also in a way that would bring the issue to attention. It was really cool to see just how many people wanted to have their voice heard.”

In the end, students who left first block were to receive referrals for leaving class without permission, according to an email from Dr. Leonard to all faculty. Then those same students were marked tardy to second block, and they had consequences based on the number of referrals in the system, which records tardies electronically and warns students of action, such as detention or ISS or OSS, depending on the number of tardies. Students who joined the walkout after first block would experience only the tardy consequence stated on their admit slips to class. Students were not to be admitted, as per an announcement over the intercom, without the printed tardy slip from the attendance computer.

These walkouts may just the beginning of protests on what citizens believe is right. On Saturday, March 24, there will be the “March For Our Lives,” which will be held in Washington and state capitals. These protests show civic duty and how the citizen’s freedom of speech is apparent.