NM students demand action, join national school safety movement | KOB 4
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NM students demand action, join national school safety movement

Erica Zucco, Kassi Nelson, Morgan Aguilar, Meg Hilling, Casey Torres and J.R. Oppenheim
March 14, 2018 07:03 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The number of times a gun has gone off at a school in just three months: 29.

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The number of lives taken when a deranged former student opened fire at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida: 17.

Across all 50 states, children made their voice heard Wednesday about violence and what they want our lawmakers to do about gun control. Their message is loud and clear. They won't tolerate violence in school.

MORE: Will Congress act on gun control?

Students at Sandia, Eldorado, La Cueva and other schools across the state took part and walked out of class early Wednesday afternoon. They left for 17 minutes, representing the number of students and teachers killed in the Stoneman Douglas shooting.

ALBUQUERQUE

At Eldorado High School, the students' big message was "enough is enough." It's in line with the hashtag used to represent this event online. Students sent out a Snapchat message to remind classmates to meet in the courtyard at 10 a.m. They began their 17-minute moment of silence, and then students rallied for school safety laws and led a short chant.

They used their remaining time to talk about solutions and to share thoughts.

"People don't realize that this isn't just one issue. It's not just one decision," said Jocelyn Lawrence, a junior at Eldorado. "We all want these school shooting to stop. Nobody wants these school shootings to continue."

The Eldorado students say they don't want to end their involvement here. Many plan to march in a community-wide rally March 24. Some may also participate in another school walkout on April 20 -- the date of the Columbine shooting in 1999. A national march for gun control and school safety is also planned for March 24.

Students at Cibola and La Cueva also spilled out of their classrooms, standing up to lawmakers for their response to school shootings. They too held the 17-minute moment of silence for the Parkland victims. Then it was back to class, but the students say they're not done. They'll keep pushing for safer schools and stricter gun laws.

"There are so many people that keep dying and it's not fair that nothing's happening," La Cueva junior Lily Thompson said. "People keep losing their lives and they shouldn't be in a place that means education and learning."

"I'm hoping that mainly the gun laws are changed," Cibola junior Joliana Davidson said. "I think that the NRA is an extremely powerful company that is paying off our government, and I think they need to work harder to change things and care more about our livelihood over the money."

The students there said they're just doing what they can to make sure safety isn't a political issue, but a fundamental right.

"Our students have so much instant access to information around the world that it would be silly for us to believe they could just ignore what is going on around them," said La Cueva principal Dana Lee. "So I think it's very cool that they're getting involved at whatever level they feel is appropriate for themselves."

Highland High School students took part in a "sit-in" Wednesday at the school, filling the hallways in "solidarity of the Parkland Shooting."

Volcano Vista opted to have a fire drill coincide with Wednesday's walkout movement and remembrance for the Stoneman Douglas High victims. School officials learned Tuesday many students wanted to be a part of the nationwide movement.

Principal Vickie Bannerman said she decided to schedule the fire drill at 10 a.m. She believes it served two purposed:

  • Fulfill its requirement to hold a monthly drill
  • Allow the students to take part in the national reembrace

Doing so allowed school faculty to monitor their students as they demonstrated. They released 17 balloons at 10:17 a.m., a special bell rang for 17 minutes, and students delivered speeches.

Those students were given a chance to express themselves, the school still followed all standard fire drill procedures. No students were allowed to enter their vehicles or leave the campus. Bannerman praised the students and staff for the way they handled things.

"Students were so well behaved and super supportive of all of their peers," she said. "Those who did not want to participate were also respected and not asked to participate in any way with anything other than the actual fire drill.

"I just cannot tell you how proud I am today, and every day, to be a Hawk."

Students who did not want to participate were allowed to be in another designated area, Bannerman said. All students and staff were accounted for as well.

"For those of you who may not agree, I respect your right to do so," she said. "I appreciate your respect of my position as well. If necessary, let us please agree to disagree and move forward in our work for children.

RIO RANCHO

At V. Sue Cleveland High School, students were told they'd face consequences for holding any kind of demonstrations. The protest there was pretty small. About 30 students met up across the street from the school because they weren't allowed to assemble on campus.

Then they walked down to the west end of campus. By about 10:30 a.m., they were either being picked up or escorted to their own cars to leave for the day because students who walked out here were not allowed to go back to class unless they had been checked in and out by a parent or guardian.

"I believe that we need stricter gun laws as well as to honor those students and those teachers who passed," said Cleveland freshman Genavieve Cullen.

"Commemorate the victims of the parkland shooting," added junior Carolena Brazfield.

Unlike Albuquerque Public Schools, students at Rio Rancho Public Schools were told they would receive an unexcused absence for participating in the walkout. The Cleveland students also expressed frustration with school and district leaders. They wish there had been more support for them to participate in this national event.

Brazfield said their original plan was to walk out for 17 minutes and get back to class, but the principal said they would not be allowed back in the building after leaving. When she suggested having an assembly instead, she said, "he shut me down. He said that he disagreed philosophically."

Beth Pendergrass, a spokesperson for Rio Rancho Public Schools, provided KOB with this statement:

We certainly understand a student's right to exercise their first amendment rights. We cannot pick and choose which issues we will or will not support. We cannot say we will support this walk out, then next week when students want to walk out in support of gun rights say we will not support it. Our responsibility is to ensure fair and consistent practices as students exercise their first amendment rights. If a student chooses to walk out for any reason, they cannot assemble on campus, are not allowed to return to class and the absence is unexcused.  That said, parents have called to check their child out and back in. Also, schools provided alternative ways in which students wishing to show support for those who lost their lives in Parkland could do so. In relation to athletics, students who miss a half day or more are not allowed to play in games that same evening.

However, several students said the unexcused absence was worth it.

FOUR CORNERS

Instead of holding a walkout, students and staff at Aztec High School chose to participate in a walk-up. They held a moment of silence in honor Casey Jordan and Paco Fernandez, the classmates they lost to gun-violence, next to the flagpole at the front of the school.

"If we want to make a change, we have full opportunity to do that," Aztec School District Superintendent Kirk Carpenter said.

Standing together, the students took pledges to take positive action in 21 different ways. For example, students could write their lawmakers, sit with someone new at lunch, or just pick-up trash.

Throughout Aztec, residents have been taking to Facebook to express pride in the students’ actions today, including the mother of one of the victims. In a statement to KOB Casey Jordan's mother, Jamie Lattin, wrote: "I'm very proud of my kids. They all show us what true leadership is about."

"So if you want to be part of a change, don't complain, do something about it," Carpenter said. "To just walkout, does that really take a stand? Because if you want to be a part of a change, you need to take action."

ROSWELL

At 10 a.m., a few students at Goddard High School prayed for those killed in the Parkland shooting. But for some students, it hit close to home. In 2014, two students at Berrendo Middle School were shot by a seventh-grader. The two survived severe injuries.

 Tracy Womack, a senior at Goddard High School, was in eighth grade when the student fired at classmates inside the middle school’s gym. Womack said his timing kept him safe from danger as he had arrived late to school.

The first thing he saw was a teacher running down the hallway scared. He said he wondered what was wrong but brushed it off.

"I was just sitting in there, wondering what was going on in the first place and why some people were scared," Womack. "I didn’t really understand until they told me. Oh, that’s terrible. Why would someone really want to do that?"

Womack did not take part in the walkout. He said he chose to stay in class to learn. He said he hopes the students who did walk-out did not use the event as a hall pass.

"I feel like it’s a good thing as long as they’re doing it for a good reason and not just walking out to get out of class," he said.

Womack added that students should try paying more attention to their peers. He thinks friendship could be a way to make things better.

SANTA FE

Students at Santa Fe High School filled the open area of the school as they walked out of class. Santa Fe Indian School and New Mexico School of the Arts both hosted walkouts as well.  

Credits

Erica Zucco, Kassi Nelson, Morgan Aguilar, Meg Hilling, Casey Torres and J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2018 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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