Hundreds of students at Kingston High School participated in a nationwide walkout this morning in tribute to the 17 students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. who lost their lives to gun violence on campus one month earlier.
The ENOUGH National School Walkout was an initiative organized by Women’s March Youth Empower, a collective of teenage activists from across the country working within the larger Women’s March organization. The national walkout was planned for 17 minutes starting at 10 a.m. in each time zone across the country on Wednesday, March 14, one minute each for everyone who lost their lives in the Florida shooting one month earlier. Organizers estimated that as many as 3,000 different schools across the country would participate in the collective walkout.
In a letter to parents earlier this week, Kingston High School Principal Kirk Reinhardt addressed the balance many school officials felt had to be struck between supporting students and wanting to keep them safe.
“As principal, I support the students’ freedom of speech and their participation in government and civic affairs,” Reinhardt wrote. “As a building leader, I have valid safety concerns about the idea of releasing nearly 2,000 students to the front lawn of a busy street at a nationally-publicized date and time. I am proud to say that we have worked with students to reach a compromise and create a collaborative and respectful event. It’s important that they are able to have a peaceful, organized, and effective demonstration. In order to accomplish this, students will be having a classroom walkout, congregating in the hallways for 17 minutes.”
But it didn’t exactly go as planned. While administrators discouraged non-sanctioned action, around 100 students followed the approved in-school walkout with an impromptu vocal protest along the edge of the Kingston High School campus on Broadway.
In addition to the walkout, members of the KHS student government read out the names and short biographies of the Parkland victims over the public-address system, and petitions were circulated on a wide range of topics.
Participation in the walkout was voluntary, and some students chose to stay in their classrooms rather than get involved.