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Students walk out over guns in Virginia

By Sarah Danial and Alexandra Sosik

Capital News Service

RICHMOND

One month after the massacre that killed 17 students and staff at a Florida high school, Richmond-area students joined their peers across the country and walked out of their schools at 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest gun violence.

Lynn Briggs, spokeswoman for Isle of Wight County Schools confirmed that about 190 students at Windsor High School participated in the walkout.

“Students were very orderly. They went to the bus loop and returned to class promptly at 10:17. There were no incidences reported,” said Briggs. “We had additional law enforcement officers on site and appreciated their support and presence for the event.”

At the same time, about 75 students at Southampton High School and 30 at the middle school did the same, according to Alice L. Williams, director of Marketing and Human Resources for the county school system.

Kelvin Edwards, deputy superintendent for Franklin City Public Schools, said middle and high school students participated in “National Walkout Day.” Specifically, he added, the high schoolers had a question-and-answer session with Principal Travis Felt, and Joseph P. King Jr. Middle School students assembled in the gymnasium for a discussion on safety in the schools.

Edwards added, “FCPS is committed to hearing the voices of our students, parents, and community to assist the division in making our schools a safe environment for learning.”

The international protest was promoted by EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women’s March. Students around the world participated in #NationalWalkoutDay by leaving their classes for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost when Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.

“We’re taught from Day One to stand up for ourselves. That’s what we’re doing,” Maxwell Nardi, a senior at Douglas. S. Freeman High School in Henrico County, wrote in an essay published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We’re walking out of school to say we’ve had enough. We’re walking out for our lives.”

More than 20 Richmond-area schools participated in the walkout. At Freeman High School, students gathered on the baseball field with signs stating, “Enough is Enough.”

Karen Allen, a mother of three Freeman High School graduates, stood outside the high school holding a sign that read, “In solidarity with the students!” Allen, who has grandchildren in grades ranging from kindergarten to middle school, said she and her children worry about their safety.

“People have stopped listening to adults,” Allen said. “Maybe if the kids come out and say what they think – they’re the ones in danger right now, and they’re having an impact on this nation right now.”

The nation will have another chance to echo their message on Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C. at the March for Our Lives, organized by Parkland survivors. So far, about 740 marches have been registered worldwide.

The Richmond March for Our Lives will begin at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, 1000 Mosby St., and go across the MLK bridge to the state Capitol grounds before ending at the Bell Tower.

STEPHEN H. COWLES/MANAGING EDITOR for Windsor Weekly, contributed to this article.