Students organize school-based walkout


Junior Madison Van Hounten cries while mourning the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting. Van Houten has attended all three school walkouts to protest gun violence.

On Friday, March 30, at 2 p.m., hallways started to fill up with students who held posters that protested against gun laws. These students were headed to the amphitheater, ready to participate in the walk out under the leadership of juniors Valeria Portillo and Avery Watson and seniors Courtney Ring and Camryn Willet.

“I was so worried about no one knowing about [the walkout]  because it wasn’t national but to have the amphitheater filled and people on the sides of the stairs and up behind me on the balcony was amazing,” Ring said. “The audience participation was wonderful everyone was super excited to be a part of something like this.”

Ring, along with Willet, Watson and Portillo, set up desks with picture frames of the 17 victims of the Parkland shooting as well as the latest school shooting victim from Maryland and a banner with the words ‘#NEVERAGAIN’ as they waited for the other students to show up.

Once students arrived, Ring gave a 10 minute speech that assured them that change will occur. Ring also informed students that teachers will not be armed in our county and encouraged them to vote or to pre-register to vote.

This walkout was school-based not national like the ones held on March 14 and Feb. 21. Unlike the past two walkouts, more students attended and held posters that were either self-made or provided by Ring and her group. Voting registration guides were also available for students during the walkout, which were provided by the supervisor of electors for Seminole County.

The planning for the protest started a week before it was held with the group creating a Discord page to get ideas from other students on how to organize the protest. Ring promoted it on the @hagertywalkout Instagram and Twitter account to encourage students who wanted to help the protest to send their ideas through Discord server link.

Under the Discord page, Ring created different categories like budgeting, shirt sales and social media for students to throw in ideas. Nine students joined the website including main supporter junior Damian Thomas who helped Ring and her group to get important information out regarding voting, selling shirts and printing out the pictures for the desk memorial.

“The people who were behind this walkout were so passionate about the cause and wanted other people to feel that passion,” Ring said. “They were the people who came up with ideas, made the banner and handed out the voting guides and made posters for others to hold during the walkout.”

Students such as sophomores Erin O’Connor and Melissa Matos took part by contributing ideas for the movement, Matos also donated the picture frames needed to do the desk memorial during the walk-out. Band students who were brought by Willett, also helped by bringing in podiums used in the protest.

Teachers also supported the walkout, especially Film and English teacher Lisaann Gendreau who allowed Ring to use her desks to create the victims’ memorial in the walkout. Beautiful Flowers also donated 18 flowers for the students to decorate the desk memorial for the 17 Parkland victims and the Maryland victim.

The original plan for the walkout included having news stations present and a balloon release were scheduled to be held in the football stadium, but these plans changed due to the track being redone and news stations not getting permission from the county in time to come in campus.

Ring encourages students to support the movement by following @hagertywalkout Twitter and Instagram page as well as to stay informed by attending school board meetings, signing petitions and encouraging others to vote. The group will also keep using Discord as a way to keep in contact with new people who want to join the movement and who want to help arrange future events.

The group will continue to pass out orange ribbons every Wednesday as well as organize national and local walkouts. The next walkout is scheduled on April 20, at 10 a.m. to honor the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.

“Students have a voice to use, we’re not silent in this situation,” Watson said. “If you want to support it doesn’t have to be a physical support, a vocal support is enough.”