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story.lead_photo.caption Students gather Wednesday morning in front of Little Rock Central High School for the national school walkout demonstration on the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 dead. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Arkansans were among the hundreds of thousands of students nationally who walked out of their schools Wednesday morning -- some under threat of being disciplined -- to remember last month's Parkland, Fla., shooting victims and to call for greater gun control.

At Little Rock's historic 2,200-student Central High School, hundreds of teenagers streamed down the front stairs and filled the expansive lawn just before the 10 a.m. time set for the #Enough National School Walkout.

"Enough is enough," Erin Farmer, Central High student body president, told the crowd of her peers. "We have lost too many students to gun violence at school. We are here to take classes in math and science. We should not have to take classes on how to dodge bullets. We are kids. We are supposed to come here to learn, not to lose our lives."

"Books Not Bullets!" the students chanted. "This is what democracy looks like," they called out in unison, while some hoisted signs declaring "Central Stands with Parkland," "Don't ignore mental health," and "Arm Teachers with Knowledge Not Guns."

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Photos by Brandon Riddle

The National School Walkout, promoted by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March organization, occurred on the one-month anniversary of the Feb. 14 attack by an armed intruder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. A 19-year-old, one-time student at the school has been charged in the massacre that killed 17 and injured others.

The 17-minute demonstrations at schools across the country Wednesday were meant to memorialize the 17 victims and draw attention to what some students and teachers see as inaction on gun violence in schools.

At Central High, Emma Jewell, a senior and one of the walkout organizers, said she feels unsafe -- "like a sitting duck" -- in school and that the nation's gun laws are ineffective in stopping campus shootings. While she opposes the arming of teachers, she said she would like to see enhanced background checks for people purchasing guns and a ban on the sale of assault rifles.

Students at other Little Rock School District schools, including Forest Heights STEM Academy and Pulaski Heights Middle School, also participated in different kinds of demonstrations. Hall High students released heart-shaped balloons. J.A. Fair High had a memorial assembly.

In the neighboring Pulaski County Special School District, Maumelle High -- which was locked down Friday after a report of a person in the parking lot wearing a mask and holding a gun -- had an assembly during which Maumelle Police Chief Sam Williams and Principal Jeff Senn answered questions from students about police work in such instances. Three teens were arrested and charged, and a BB gun was recovered, all in connection with the Maumelle incident.

About 400 Bentonville High School students -- about 13 percent of the school's enrollment -- lined Southeast J Street for about an hour to chant slogans such as "No more silence, end the violence." Another 200 exited Bentonville's West High School. In both cases, students who participated can expect to be given detention, after the Bentonville School Board voted earlier in the week to apply the district's penalties to demonstrators.

At nearby Fayetteville High, an estimated 1,000 students gathered in the school courtyard at the time of the walkout without fear of facing sanctions. As many as 400, who had permission slips to do so, then marched to the Washington County Courthouse.

"Let this generation go down in history as solving the problem when we saw the need," said Becca Tomlinson, a student.

At Fort Smith Northside High, students gathered in the school stadium for the 17-minute observance. Southside High students met in the school's courtyard. Some students from the Belle Point New Tech Academy also participated in the observance, meeting around the flagpole on the school grounds.

Students stood in silence, some holding hands, some making impromptu comments. School staff members stood by but did not participate, school district spokesman Zena Featherston said.

More than 200 Arkansas High School students in Texarkana participated in the walkout, standing silently and holding hands in a show against gun violence in schools, district leaders reported later in the day.

"I cannot imagine something so tragic happening at my school, but we must all do our part and work to embrace everyone within our school community," senior Christina Cannady told her classmates.

At the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, a public residential school in Hot Springs for gifted juniors and seniors, about 70 students participated in the walkout, said Donnie Sewell, public information specialist. Students participated, despite school director Corey Alderdice telling students beforehand that standard penalties for class tardies would be applied. Alderdice later commended the student demonstrators.

Across the nation, students gathered in auditoriums and gymnasiums, many choosing to wear orange, the color of the movement against gun violence, or maroon, the school color at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, according to news accounts.

Some of the day's most poignant demonstrations occurred at schools where mass shootings had occurred, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida.

"We're with you," a woman shouted from the sidewalk to hundreds of students crowded onto the school's football field. Others took up the chant.

In Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hundreds of students filed out of Newtown High School just moments before 10 a.m. and gathered in a parking lot near the football field. Some held posters.

The district's interim superintendent, Lorrie Rodrigue, said this month that school officials had "worked closely with student leaders to create a time for respectful student expression," according to School Board minutes. Rodrigue said she viewed the protests as an extension of social studies classes.

At Columbine High School near Denver, the site of the 1999 killing of 13 people, hundreds of students gathered on a soccer field. They waved signs -- "this is our future" -- and released a bouquet of balloons in red, white and blue. Afterward, 16-year-old junior Kaylee Tyner stood at the edge of the field, next to Frank DeAngelis, who was the principal when the attack occurred.

"We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?" she said. "Why does this keep happening?"

Advocates for gun rights reacted Wednesday to the demonstrations.

The National Rifle Association said on Twitter, "Let's work together to secure our schools and stop school violence."

The association then tweeted: "I'll control my own guns, thank you."

The Gun Owners of America, a smaller organization that calls itself "the only no-compromise gun lobby in Washington," urged its supporters to call their elected officials to oppose gun-control measures, and it celebrated students who sat out of the walkout.

The demonstrations moved beyond school property in some cities.

In Washington, students gathered outside the White House and on Capitol Hill. More than 2,000 high-school-age protesters observed the 17 minutes of silence by sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House as a church bell tolled. President Donald Trump was in Los Angeles at the time.

Protesters carried signs with messages such as "Our Blood/Your Hands" and "Never Again" and chanted slogans against the NRA.

In New York, students marched in the streets to central locations such as Lincoln Center, Columbus Circle and Battery Park.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, stretched out on the sidewalk as part of a "lie-in" with students in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the former home of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the local union, joined them.

A nor'easter that buried Boston in snow and left many schools closed and disrupted the protest plans. But hundreds of students still gathered at a Boston church before marching to the Statehouse, where they planned to lobby lawmakers to pass new gun regulations.

"I feel like there is a certain power in kids standing up for themselves and standing up for their safety," said Esmay Price Jones, 14, a Somerville High School freshman.

At other schools, students created symbols to try to represent the tragedy. At Cooper City High, near Parkland, Fla., students gathered around 14 empty desks and three podiums arranged in a circle outside the school, representing the 14 students and three faculty members killed in last month's shooting. The students then released 17 doves from a box.

Some schools applauded students for taking a stand or at least tolerated the walkouts, while others threatened disciplinary action.

The Bentonville School Board had voted earlier this week to uphold district policy, causing students who chose to participate in the walkout to be counted absent and assigned detention.

In the Conway School District, about 50 high school students and 10 junior high students participated in the walkout Wednesday and were considered truant, Heather Kendrick, a spokesman for the Conway district said. Saturday School is the consequence for a first-time truancy violation, she said.

Alderdice, director of the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, who had said penalties for the walkout would be applied, commended the participating students for choosing to "show solidarity with their peers nationally and for using all tools of civic engagement available to them.

"Enforcing a low-level sanction for an unexcused absence was never intended to stifle participation but to provide a framework for the realities of engaging in civil disobedience both now and in adulthood, "Alderdice said in a statement Wednesday. "Taking a stand often involves some level of risk and consequence. ASMSA is a place where learning is not only measured by success in the classroom but also in personal growth."

Little Rock School District Superintendent Mike Poore said earlier that students would not be disciplined for participation, and he and his staff made arrangements to provide support to the campuses.

Central High Principal Nancy Rousseau called Wednesday's walkout, which ended with the release of white balloons into the blue sky, as "powerful" a history lesson as anyone could have delivered.

Information for this article was contributed by Dave Hughes and Debra Hale-Shelton of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Dave Perozek and Ashton Eley of the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; staff members of The New York Times and The Associated Press.

Photo by John Sykes Jr.
Students at Hall High School in Little Rock take part in a walkout Wednesday morning in remembrance of victims killed last month during a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and to call for more gun control.

Metro on 03/15/2018

Print Headline: Arkansas kids join walkout; Students across U.S. exit schools, honor shooting victims

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  • RBear
    March 15, 2018 at 6:13 a.m.

    These students stood against gun violence in America and I applaud them. They understand the issues and clearly articulated what many of us have been saying in clear terms. As stated by one student, "While she opposes the arming of teachers, she said she would like to see enhanced background checks for people purchasing guns and a ban on the sale of assault rifles."
    ...
    I've heard some in here make the insidious claim that they and we did not even know what assault weapons are. In reality, they are the ones who don't seem to understand as they have included weapons not considered assault weapons as defined by the AWB of 1994 in their list. It shows how ignorant the right is of the issues and why the generation that walked out yesterday will right the wrong.
    ...
    The insensitivity of the NRA showed yesterday when it tweeted: "I'll control my own guns, thank you." I'm sorry, but apparently you can't control your own guns effectively and continue to aggravate the situation.
    ...
    This march yesterday will not be the last as an even larger march will occur March 24th, both in DC and in cities across the nation. Of course, you can expect the maniacal troll and the gun freak in here to attack me as they usually do. I ignore one and break down the idiotic arguments of the other (even though he never seems to get it due to a reading comprehension issue).
    ...
    The simple point is most of these young people will be of voting age in a few years, namely 2020, and they will vote based on the experience they see now. Many of those opposed to them won't be around or able to vote. The demographics is not on the side of the ultra conservative. I'd start listening if you expect to have a voice later.

  • BoudinMan
    March 15, 2018 at 7:29 a.m.

    The activism was more than enough to impress me. Then you consider the fact that there were thousands of students gathered en masse at their respective locations, and nary a violent act. Totally peaceful. One more thing. I heard at least several students comment on the fact that they were already 18, or about to turn 18, and they were already registered, or will register to vote in November. That's the most impressive thing. 11.6.18

  • JakeTidmore
    March 15, 2018 at 7:57 a.m.

    Sad that the Bentonville School Board voted 4-3 to take a totalitarian stance on this issue rather than deal with it in a fashion more suitable for an open and free democratic society. Bentonville adults failed their students. Suppression of thought was more important than freedom of speech.
    Bentonville voters - you need to vote out those 4 who stomped on the rights and concerns of their students. Bentonville students - don't forget the motto of our Revolutionary forefathers and heroes: "Don't tread on me."

  • 23cal
    March 15, 2018 at 8:24 a.m.

    RB: About "I've heard some in here make the insidious claim that they and we did not even know what assault weapons are."
    *
    This is an ongoing contemptuously blustering theme by the gun fetishists. They fail to realize that lack of in-depth knowledge of ballistics, firearms, and jargon doesn't deny people a seat at the table of discussion of deaths by firearms. These people are their own worst enemy. Instead of using their vaunted knowledge to actually do something to reduce firearm deaths, they stonewall every action.......not realizing that at some point, people will get so fed up with unnecessary firearm deaths that instead of taking moderate action they will take the "ban all guns and be done with it" action.
    This will be on the head of the gun nuts who stop any practical improvements.

  • hah406
    March 15, 2018 at 8:40 a.m.

    The NRA's opposition to universal background checks shows that they in fact do have the blood of these children on their hands. Their opposition to any meaningful reform is shameful, and their tone deaf response to yesterday's peaceful demonstrations show that they must actually be in fear of this movement, which is a good thing.
    .
    Bentonville and Conway, you are another example of the adults failing these teenagers. Yesterday was a grand opportunity to teach everyone about civics, politics, and how pressure and peaceful civil disobedience can bring about change. Thousands of schools across the country seized that opportunity. All you did was come with a punitive approach that Putin would be proud of in attempting to suppress free speech.
    .
    We need universal background checks on all gun purchases and transfers. We need mandatory mental health reporting into the database, and a prohibition on those with mental health issues or drug and alcohol addiction from possessing weapons. And we need gun violence restraining orders utilizing the due process of law.
    .
    Finally I will echo something already said. These kids are or will be turning 18, if not for the 2018 elections, most of them for 2020. They are mad, and they have said enough is enough. They will not forget about this issue, and politicians ignore them as a voting block at their own peril.

  • Whippersnapper
    March 15, 2018 at 8:46 a.m.

    23cal says... March 15, 2018 at 8:24 a.m.
    "These people are their own worst enemy. Instead of using their vaunted knowledge to actually do something to reduce firearm deaths, they stonewall every action.......not realizing that at some point, people will get so fed up with unnecessary firearm deaths that instead of taking moderate action they will take the "ban all guns and be done with it" action."
    .
    Good luck with that. Seriously. Who is going to enforce such a ban? Oh yeah, people with guns. In reality, people in favor of strict gun control do not believe in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. They believe in a dictatorship where a select group governs and the average Joe is powerless.
    .
    I believe in total disarmament of everybody, but I insist that you disarm before I will, and I apply that to everybody (foreign and domestic).
    .
    Seriously, you know what kills three times as many people every year as guns in the United States? Alcohol. You let us ban booze in the name of safety and we can talk about banning guns in the name of safety. What? We tried that and it failed miserably? Oh well. Until and unless you are willing to give up your favorite freedoms in the name of everyone else's safety, don't expect anybody else to do so.

  • ChadwickJefferson
    March 15, 2018 at 8:48 a.m.

    Was anything mentioned about racial disparities in gun violence? Nationwide African-Americans are only 12% of the population, but they commit over 50% of the murders. The explanation that is usually given for this is that it is caused by poverty. But Hispanics, who are 16% of the population and are statistically just as poor as African-Americans, commit only about 20% of the murders. It's hard to see how poverty can explain the disparity in murder between African-Americans and Hispanics.

  • PopMom
    March 15, 2018 at 9:22 a.m.

    Chadwick,

    Blacks tend to be more the victims of handgun violence through gang activity or robberies etc. Attempts in cities such as D.C. and Chicago to ban handguns have been unsuccessful due to court decisions which have held that people have a right to buy handguns to use in the home for protection. Bloomberg was able to bring down crime in New York through stop and frisk tactics and improving the schools. A greater correlation exists between education level and murder than race and murder. Those who attend bad schools and do not get a high school degree are much more likely to murder than those who do. The hispanic crime states are a little hazy because some departments classify hispanics as whites etc. I now live in Montgomery COunty Maryland and there is little black murder, but we've suffered an upswing in hispanic murder through the MS-13 activity. Still, I'd rather have our 1 out of 100,000 rate of murder than Little Rock 21 out of 100,000 murder rate. I am all in favor of cracking down on MS-13. While whites are less likely to kill each other in gang activity, we are much more likely to kill ourselves. People with teens or other vulnerable family members should think twice about keeping a gun in the home.

  • hogfan2012
    March 15, 2018 at 9:41 a.m.

    Baaaaaaa - sheep will follow other sheep anywhere - right over the cliff.....

  • JakeTidmore
    March 15, 2018 at 9:48 a.m.

    So Chad plays the race card and gives a toilet roll view of the issues. Sophomoric effort, Chad. The stench of racism is distinctive and overpowering. Only the racist, who wallows in his own fecal waste, cannot smell the rot that pervades his thinking and attitudes.
    You flunked basic debate, Chad. As the famous quote goes, Chad uses facts like a drunk uses a lamp post - more to support his crippled form than for illumination.

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