Thousands of students from schools across Summit County participated in protests against gun violence and tributes to school shooting victims this morning, and many students want their legislators to know that “enough is enough.”
The March 14 National School Walkout was greeted with largely peaceful demonstrations across Northeast Ohio. In almost all cases, the media was excluded from covering the events directly.
“We deserve to feel safe at school,” said Nordonia High School junior Jenna Jacofsky. “We are rightfully angry and understandably afraid … We declare boldly and with conviction that enough is enough.”
Schools had anywhere between 20 percent and as much as 70 percent of the student body participate in the protests. No schools penalized participating students, and in most cases the district administrations seemed to work with student leaders and local police departments in making time and safety preparations for the demonstrations, which took different forms.
A crowd of more than 500 students — about half of Nordonia High School’s 1,200 student body — filed out of their third-period classes at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The students, like many across the county, gathered in the gym where they remained for 17 minutes, in tribute to 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.”
During her remarks, Jacofsky said her plans to speak were met with opposition and resistance from her peers.
“In the weeks leading up to this, I've been insulted, threatened and have had people attempt to silence me,” Jacofsky said. “But to make it clear, this movement is far bigger than myself and far bigger than Nordonia.”
In Twinsburg, a bell pealed 17 times at 10 a.m. at Twinsburg High School, shattering the solitude of the snowy morning in a show of support for the 17 Florida shooting victims. About 450 Twinsburg High School students conducted a 17-minute walk outside to protest, exactly one month after youngsters their age lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Each minute during the event, the bell rang, and a student representative read off “each victim’s name, age and a short bio about their hobbies, achievements and goals for the future,” said THS senior and student leader Julius Edgerson, adding, “ … High school shootings are very personal because we are all alike in some way … The victims were dancers, athletes, singers and artists and we can all relate to them in many ways.”
“To be completely honest,” Edgerson said, “I don’t feel safe at school and I feel since the [Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School] shooting, everyone has been on edge … School shootings need to stop.”
About a dozen supporters viewed the walkout from across the street, lining a small stretch of Ravenna Road in front of the Twinsburg Government Center, the snow falling heavy around them. An occasional driver honked a horn in support as he or she passed.
Hudson students also joined in the nationwide protest, walking out of class and into the gymnasium at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes. Like most districts in Summit County, the campus was closed to visitors, parents and media, and police cars blocked different entrances to the high school during the walkout.
About half of the 1,600 students at Hudson High School participated in the walkout in the school gym, while an unknown number of Hudson Middle School students participated. Those who did not choose to participate remained in their classrooms with their teachers and continued lessons.
There were no student problems during the walkout, and students did not face consequences for participating as long as they followed the Student Code of Conduct.
Although students were not available for comment afterward, three of the student organizers at HHS — Kelsey Lowman (senior at HHS and president of student government), Anna Berger and Cade Capper — told the Hudson Hub-Times earlier this month that despite their young age, they would be heard.
“We will participate in our beliefs,” Lowman said. “My generation is done playing the political game. If our political leaders can’t act to make us safe, they are done.”
Berger highlighted another portion of the event, which echoed the recent Facebook meme of “Walk Up, Not Out.”
“17 new things, 17 new smiles, 17 new friends, 17 new compliments,” Berger said.
Farther south in Cuyahoga Falls, around 250 of the 1,600 students at Cuyahoga Falls High School walked out into wintery weather at 10 a.m.
Seventeen students held orange balloons, which were launched during the walkout in memory of the Parkland victims. Occasionally, vehicles driving by would honk their horns as the students listened to two of the organizers, who said they were out there in hopes the school shootings would never happen again.
“Since 2013, there were over 300 gun-related shootings in schools all across the country,” said one of the students, using a megaphone. “I think I speak for all of us when I say this is enough, and never again.”
“I feel the students were successful in their goal of joining the National School Walkout in raising awareness about issues of school safety and commemorating the one month anniversary of the victims at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” said Cuyahoga Falls High School Principal Allison Bogdan after the event. “I appreciated our student leadership’s ability to organize an event that was meaningful and well organized. The students that participated voices were definitely heard today.”
Across the street from the students, near the Natatorium, several adults came to show support.
“I’m an old anti-war protester, and these kids give me hope,” said Robert Miller. “It’s not about us, it’s about the kids. Our generation failed.”
Editor’s Note: Reporters April Helms, Steve Wiandt, Laura Freeman and Ellin Walsh contributed to this story.
Email Editor Andrew Schunk at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 330-541-9424.