Madras, Culver students join walkout
Student walkouts were held in Madras and Culver at 10 a.m., March 14, as part of the National School Walkout for Gun Safety.
At Madras High School, an estimated 40 students exited the building at 10 a.m., under the watchful eye of an assistant principal and the school resource officer.
They stood in front of the school for 17 minutes – one minute for each victim of the recent school shooting in Florida. A few adults gathered on the sidewalk by the street in solidarity with the students.
Senior Sierra Cromwell, of MHS, held up a sign reading "Enough is Enough," and periodically the group chanted those words.
Toward the end of the walkout time, a girl read the names and ages of the Florida victims from a list on her cell phone. Then someone lead another chant: "What do we want? Safer schools. When do we want it? Now!" which was punctuated by a student yelling, "End the violence."
At the end of the 17 minutes, the MHS student group quickly returned to class.
The resource officer would not let a reporter get near enough to talk to students during the protest, but a few were interviewed by phone afterward.
Sierra Cromwell said she took part in the walkout, "In part to honor the lives that were lost, and part as a call to action for our representatives and Congress to take a stand and do something. More gun regulation would be amazing."
"Students aren't just going to forget about it and we will keep protesting, because students are vulnerable and we want them to do something about it," Cromwell added.
Student Gabby Nambo was not able to be at the March 14 protest, but said she tried to encourage other students to participate. She is focusing her energy on helping to organize another protest. "I'm a big advocate for the April 20 nationwide walkout, which will be from 10 a.m. until the end of the day," she said.
MHS sophomore Jasper Smith gave his reasons for being part of the walkout. "I believe every school has the right to be safe. Guns should be under more control and not just out there for any reason," he said.
Asked if he thought the walkout would have any effect, Smith said, "I hope so. Knowing what happened (in Florida), I don't want that happening in other schools, including ours.
Nambo, Cromwell and Smith said they all plan to be in the April 20, all-day walkout. "I know there are kids who will be participating," Cromwell said.
At Culver High School, Principal Brad Kudlac and Assistant Principal Josh Davis sent a letter to parents the day before stating, "The walkout event that will be occurring this Wednesday … is an opportunity for students to stand in unity and support of the high school and victims' friends and families of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that occurred a month ago."
"While this is a nondistrict-sponsored event, students will be supervised should they choose to participate in the student-initiated walkout. Students have a constitutional right to free speech at school, so long as it does not disrupt the learning environment for others. Students are welcome to participate," the letter said.
Davis, in another letter, said students in the CHS leadership group talked about participating and worked with their advisor Betty Nitschelm and high school administrators to develop a plan for the event.
The plan included students signing up on a participation list, returning to class after the walkout, and turning in their cell phones during the 17 minutes, which in Culver were observed as a silent vigil in honor of the victims.
Around 20 CHS students gathered in silence around the school flagpole during the walkout, with one girl holding a sign with photos of the Florida students and staff members, who were killed.
A reporter was unable to contact any of the Culver students, but Superintendent Stefanie Garber commented, "A walkout to show support is one way anyone can participate in sharing their opinion. Real heroes and leaders are the ones spending time with others and researching, proposing, and exploring real solutions to the issues. I encourage our students to think bigger than the walkout."
Some 60 Jefferson County Middle School students participated in the walkout, with some making signs showing their concerns.
One of those students was seventh-grader Joel Kwiecien Jr., whose sign read, "Fear has no place in schools."
Contacted by email, Joel said he participated in the walkout because, "I want more safety in schools, no parent should fear sending their kids to school and no student should fear walking into school. My heart goes out to all the parents that had to lay their kids to rest in Florida."