CUYAHOGA FALLS — Around 250 of the 1,600 students at Cuyahoga Falls High School walked out of school into wintery weather as a part of a nationwide movement in response to the Valentine Day shooting of 17 students in Parkland, Fla., as well as other victims of school violence, and to protest school violence.
The students gathered Wednesday outside the auditorium area 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, Noah Spinner, using a megaphone. "I think I speak for all of us when I say this is enough, and never again."
The last moments of the walkout were done in silence. Throughout, school, staff and city safety forces stood in a line near the students, sealing off the area and isolating the high schoolers, but never getting directly involved.
"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."
Retired teacher Michele Whitehurst said what happened that morning "is democracy in action."
"This is what democracy looks like," Whitehurst said. "There will be doubters, there will be naysayers. But this is why we live in a free country."
Jeannette Loretitsch said the students gave her "a lot of hope."
"As a teacher, I couldn’t be more proud of these kids," she said.
Both Woodridge High School and Woodridge Middle School had assemblies to commemorate the victims of the Parkland shootings, said Superintendent Walter Davis in an emailed media release.
At the high school, students who wanted to participate gathered in the gym, Davis said.
Seventeen students were asked to come forward and read a bio for each of the Parkland victims, and everyone sat in silence for the entire period.
"Less than half of the student body participated," Davis said. "The rest of the students remained in class. About half dozen students left the building — and were permitted to do so. It was a very respectful event, focused entirely on those who lost their lives in Florida."
At the middle school, Davis said Principal Jesse Hosford made an announcement at 10 a.m. and talked about the Parkland tragedy, and explained how the middle school would honor the victims.
"All students remained in class but instruction shifted from the day’s lesson to a special discussion based on the showing of two short video clips provided by the Homeland Security Department that highlight the See Something / Say Something theme," Davis said.
"In every classroom, teachers shared the video clips, then led the classes in discussions about them. The session ended with a writing activity based on the following prompt: ‘During tragedies there are also stories of courage, activism and hope. Please take this time to share how you can make this a better place or reflect on the conversations you have had in the classroom today.’"
Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423, firstname.lastname@example.org, or ??@AprilKHelms_RPC??