MACEDONIA — “We deserve to feel safe at school. We are rightfully angry and understandably afraid … We declare boldly and with conviction that enough is enough.”
These are the words of junior Jenna Jacofsky, who addressed a crowd of more than 500 students — about half of Nordonia High School’s 1,200 student body — who filed out of their third-period classes at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The students gathered in the gym where they remained for 17 minutes as part of a national school walkout in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Nordonia’s school walkout was organized by seniors Michael Dietzen and Karlie Acord. Dietzen said he wanted the chance for him and others to address their peers on this issue and believes the rights to free assembly and free speech are important.
“With these recent tragedies, something needs to change,” Michael said. “I just want the student body to give their take on that. That’s important to me.”
He said students walked out at 9:30 rather than 10 a.m. — when most demonstrations were taking place nationwide — because he felt it was more impactful to walk out of class halfway through a class period. Michael also said 10 a.m. is also when most students go to lunch.
“I think it's powerful and important as students to express our ideas,” Karlie said, “… especially on the issues that are facing our country right now. It's important as a student body to make a cultural change.”
During her remarks, Jenna said her plans to speak were not met with support by all of her peers and that she encountered some resistance.
“In the weeks leading up to this, I've been insulted, threatened and have had people attempt to silence me,” Jenna said. “But to make it clear, this movement is far bigger than myself and far bigger than Nordonia.”
Jenna said those afraid of change will try to tell those who are speaking out their voice is insignificant.
“Do not listen,” she told her audience. “There's power inside a determined teenager who is willing to rise.”
Principal Casey Wright said he is proud of the students.
“They came down and organized 500 to 600 kids and they lasted 17 minutes. They shared their beliefs. I can't be more proud watching them exercise that.”
Wright said the walkout was non-disruptive and respectful, which he appreciated. “We have such great students,” he added.
Those who walked out of their classes would be marked absent by their teachers, Wright noted. Teachers will likely talk to the students tomorrow about the importance of good attendance.
On Tuesday, Nordonia's superintendent, Dr. Joe Clark, said neither he nor anyone on his staff were going to interfere or get involved with the student-planned walkout.
“It's not the staff’s place to participate in any kind of protest; however, we're not going to ignore the things we hear are going on,” Clark said, adding staff members were prepared to monitor the situation, provide security and make sure the demonstration was peaceful.
Two Macedonia police officers and a member of the fire department were present in the hall outside the gymnasium. One officer remarked that it was not unusual for them to be there, and compared it to a fire drill.
Reporter Steve Wiandt can be reached at 330-541-9420, firstname.lastname@example.org or @SteveWiandt_RPC.