PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) – From coast to coast and here in the greater Pittsburgh area, students took to the streets as part of a nationwide school walkout on Wednesday. The movement was in response to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month.
The big sign outside of Canon-McMillan High School read #Enough. Students echoed that, and strong messages from a podium in the school’s parking lot.
“I ask that you do not forget the emotion that drove you to get out and walk out today. I ask you to tether your anger to a cause you believe in. Let your fear make you vocal. Throw your vote behind someone who will take steps to prevent tragedy,” said one student speaker.
A moment of silence was held to mark the one-month anniversary of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“It is our human obligation to never be silent and to realize that if one is in danger, we are all in danger,” said another student speaker.
Seventeen balloons were released into the air as the names of the 17 victims were read.
At the same time this was happening ,the majority of the Pittsburgh CAPA students also took part in the National School Walkout. Students did not speak for 17 minutes — one to recognize each of the victims.
As they were circling their building, many were locking arms and carrying signs, hoping that their public protest will create change.
“I feel like everybody here is just coming together. I just formed such a big relationship with everybody in my school. I’ve never bonded with this many people at once before because we’re all working for the greater good,” said Freshman Carmel Ricketts.
“I’d like to see the minimum age required to buy a gun raised. And also just easy accessibility of these weapons. Like, military grade weapons, they shouldn’t be at Walmart,” said freshman Anastasia Jungle-Wagner.
While some students walked out of Moon Area High School, many spent their morning sending emails to two state lawmakers. The change they want it more mental health professionals in schools. Those lawmakers already responded and they are visiting there for an assembly on Friday.
“It’s pretty cool to see that almost immediately we’re already getting responses,” said senior Garrett Ley.
It’s the power of the pen at work. Well, technically, it was their emails that quickly got the attention of state lawmakers.
“I thought that the emails was a better idea than doing a walkout because the emails were more proactive and actually did accomplish what we wanted them to,” said sophomore Sophia Piccirilli.
The students want mental health professionals in every school.
Sophomore Casey McKee wrote in part: “Mental health issues affect the ages 10 to 24 more than any other age range. If we start with help at the youngest age, we can prevent tragedies like Parkland.”
McKee told KDKA, “If we try to focus on gun control, people will find their ways around it. There’s hunting and sports, bow and arrows, that kill people too. We have to think of more the mental thing and not so physical.”
Before lunch time on Wednesday, State Rep. Mark Mustio and State Sen. Guy Reschenthaler had both agreed to come speak with the students.
“Although I can’t say I’m a great advocate of wanting to have a student walkout. It does become a big school teachable moment for everybody. And so, when they want to look at alternatives to keeping them safe. and they want to be heard. I think you can’t be more proud of them than you are today,” said principal Barry Balaski.
Some students who walked out also sent emails. On Friday, the entire student body is invited to the assembly in the school’s auditorium. The questions will all come from the students.
More than 30 Pittsburgh-area schools participated in the walkout.
Elsewhere across the nation, thousands of students gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., holding colorful signs and cheering in support of gun control.
The students chanted, “Hey, hey, ho, ho. The NRA has got to go!” and “What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!”
President Donald Trump was traveling in Los Angeles and was not in the White House during the demonstrations.
The protests have drawn mixed reactions from school administrators. While some applaud students for taking a stand, others threatened discipline.
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