Around the country and throughout metro Birmingham Wednesday, students from kindergarten through 12th grade participated in National Walkout Day. They were honoring recent school shooting victims and raising awareness about the need for school safety.
Hundreds of Mountain Brook High students walked down the school hallway. They said they feel safe. But they also said they feel connected to students in Parkland, Florida and across town in Huffman, where there have been fatal school shootings.
“ These were people just like me,” says Nik Dworek, student body president. “This could have been very easily me could have happened at any high school.”
Students packed into the center of the school. Most of them wore black. They set up little boxes and note paper on tables around the school for students to write notes to lawmakers. In his speech, Dworek called for unity and challenged students to tell leaders what they want.
“Let’s change the status quo,” he said. “Let’s do it, not only for us and our generation, but for generations to come.
Kary Utomi, a junior, led a memorial to 17 students killed in Parkland, Florida a month ago, and Courtlin Arrington, a senior killed at Huffman High School last week.
“This isn’t about a political statement. It’s about legislators being able to hear what we need and we want from them,” she said.
Mountain Brook’s event started at 9:50 a.m. Participation was voluntary, but student organizers said most of the school’s 1,000 students were gathered in a large open space inside the school. The students decided to stay inside for access to a sound system and video screen, said Simona Shirley, one of the organizers.
At other schools, like Spain Park High School in Hoover, administrators did not support the walkout, and parents say students were threatened with suspension. Administrators did not return calls for comment. At Vestavia Hills High School, the principal didn’t allow media on campus during the walkout. Birmingham schools supported the walkout, and Superintendent Lisa Herring tweeted: “I’m standing with students.”
Mountain Brook High School Principal Amanda Hood watched the 18-minute program. She said she wants students to know they are safe so they can focus on their education. But she also wants them to learn from sharing opinions and taking action.