As expected, hundreds of students from across Nassau County took part in Wednesday’s planned National School Walkout to remember the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a month ago, and call for stricter gun controls, according to student activists and educators.
Glen Cove school district officials said they had to weigh the concerns of students looking for a way to participate that day, and their safety if they were allowed to leave the building at a time other than their regular dismissal.
A letter sent out by high school Principal Antonio Santana said that a student-led walkout was “not a viable option for Glen Cove High School,” but did not say why. The district instead planned a number of indoor activities meant to be "meaningful, healing, and empowering."
“In our discussion with students,” the letter read, “it has been agreed that no student will leave the building as part of our tribute to the victims.” It went on to say that any student caught leaving the buildings without permission “will be subject to administrative action.”
However, in an apparent departure from the plan laid out in the letter, approximately 200 high school students walked out of their classrooms at 9:20 a.m. on the day of the event, where they stood in silence by the entrance to the school for 17 minutes, as Santana read out the names of those killed in the Parkland shooting.
One student, Glory Mayreis, told the Herald Gazette that she had been speaking to her principal and vice principal about allowing the students to participate in the walkout. “Yesterday,” the day before it was scheduled, she said, “they finally agreed.”
She added that “Overall, it went very well, and we did have full support from the teachers and staff.”
District officials had not yet responded to our inquiries about the change of plans before 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Some kids had signs,” Mayreis said, “and I called my representatives and tried getting other kids to call as well, but I guess they were a bit scared to do that.” She added that several of her classmates had written letters to their legislators and to the White House.
At North Shore High School in Glen Head, many students brandished signs saying they had had enough of gun violence. Senior Danielle Fosset said, “I think it’s important that our demographic and generation becomes increasingly active and involved in social issues in the current political climate, especially in regards to our lives and our safety. That’s why I participated in the walkout. We have the power to inspire change.”
The group Women’s March Youth Empower acted as a national organizer of the walkout, which took place not only in the United States, but also at schools in Europe and Australia.
The event was called simply #Enough.
It began at 10 a.m. Students walked out of their schools for precisely 17 minutes — one minute for each of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims.
According to a post on its Twitter feed, Women's March Youth Empower is seeking:
• To enact a resolution declaring gun violence a national health crisis.
• To ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
• To expand background checks on all weapons.
• To pass a federal gun violence restraining order.
• To pass an act "to demilitarize" law enforcement.
School districts are prohibited by law from advocating for political positions, so district officials said they could not condone the walkout. At the same time, many are saying they support their students.
A number of school districts, such as the Valley Stream Central High and Lynbrook school districts, held school-sponsored memorial services in remembrance of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas victims. Others held assemblies, and others allowed students to walk out without fear of punishment; however, there were reports of a handful of Long Island districts that treated the walkout as a cut.
Ahead of the walkout, Nassau police said that security was stepped up at high schools across the county, but would offer no further details.
On its website, Women’s March Youth Empower states that the walkout came about because of “Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
“We need action,” the site states. “Students and allies are organizing the national school walkout to demand Congress pass legislation to keep us safe from gun violence at our schools, on our streets and in our homes and places of worship.”
Erik Hawkins, Alexandra Brinton and Zoe Mailin contributed to this story.