SCHOOL WALKOUTS: Anderson High School students join demonstrations demanding gun control

1:20 p.m. update: Students at Anderson High School in northwest Austin walked out of their classrooms on Friday afternoon, joining several demonstrations throughout Austin to demand stricter gun laws.

About 400 students huddled near the front of the high school carrying signs, observing 17 minutes of silence to honor the 17 students who were killed in a shooting in Florida last week. 

Before the silent reflection, students could be heard screaming, “What do we need? Gun control! When do we need it? Now!”

On a bullhorn, one student said she is terrified to go to school because of gun violence.

After the silent demonstration, students began marching around the high school.

“We want protection, and we want our education but we can’t seem to get it safely,” Anderson ninth grader Claire Lupul said. “We want a safe place that we can come to every day. And we want the country to stop having so many shootings...We are all just here to get our education.”

In the past two days, more than 1,000 students have participated in walkouts at Austin-area schools.

Similar demonstrations have been ongoing across the country.

Beginning at 10 a.m. Friday, about 200 students walked out of Gorzycki Middle School in South Austin, gathering in the courtyard to read aloud the names of the 17 people that died in Parkland, Fla., school officials said. They then observed 17 minutes of silence before going back to class, school principal Cathryn Mitchell said.

Officials said extra police officers were on campus to assist. Mitchell said she was “proud to be their principal.”

Another 300 walked out of Bailey Middle School.

11:10 a.m. update: A walkout that drew nearly 300 students from Bailey Middle School in Southwest Austin on Friday morning has petered out to about two dozen students.

Crowds began filtering out of the school at 10 a.m., chanting “save our schools” and demanding stricter gun laws in reaction to last week’s shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 people dead and 40 wounded.

Some Bailey students carried signs displaying the names of those killed in the attack.

“Schools should be a safe place to learn, explore and have dreams,” Ivory Smith, 14, said. “After the first school shooting, that is when the foot should be down.”

School staff blocked some students from going outside and parents, who were nearby, said they had difficulty joining their children.

“When it comes to students’ lives being taken by assault rifles, that is where I draw the line,” said Avery Smith, a 14-year-old student who was near tears. “That could be me in a couple months. I am going to Akins High School, and a 17-year-old was just arrested yesterday there, and I am not going to let that happen to me.”

Police on Thursday arrested a former Akins High School student they say threatened to “shoot and blow up” the school. 

The threat prompted an order to shelter in place, then a full-scale lockdown while district and Austin police searched for the suspect on campus and around town.

Police identified the the suspect on Friday as 17-year-old Ariel Alex Ramirez Navarro.

Bailey principal John Rocha sent a letter to parents Thursday saying administrators were aware of the scheduled walkout and would allow students to participate for 17 minutes only, to honor the lives of the 17 people who lost their lives in Florida.

“Please talk to your students about the importance of getting back to class to complete the balance of the day,” the letter said. “We will make every attempt to keep the protest within our main building.”

The walkout Friday extended beyond 17 minutes, as students filtered into the courtyard but they were blocked from going to the flagpole outside.

More walkouts are planned at other Austin area schools on Friday, including at Fulmore and Gorzycki middle schools and Anderson and McNeil high schools in the afternoon, officials said.

“We honor (students’) right to express their concern, grief, fear and anger over this emotional and terrorizing topic,” Austin school board president Kendall Pace said. “I hope these students will join in mass the national marches on March 24 so their voices will be heard.”

The larger “March for Our Lives” is planned in Washington D.C. on March 24, and students across Austin will join to march to the state Capitol.

On Wednesday, more than 100 students walked out of Clint Small Middle School calling for stricter gun laws.

10:15 a.m. update: More than 100 students calling for stricter gun laws walked out of Bailey Middle School on Friday morning.

The students filtered out of the school chanting, “we can make a change” and “save our schools.”

Some carried signs, including one that said “17 killed, 40 hurt,” in reference to last week’s deadly shooting at a high school in Florida.

School staffers say another 100 students are trying to leave their classrooms to join the demonstration but have been blocked by administrators.

Other walkouts are planned at Gorzycki and Fulmore middle schools and Anderson and McNeil high schools on Friday.

Earlier: More students are expected to walk out of Austin schools on Friday, continuing a series of demonstrations that are calling for stricter gun laws after a Florida high school shooting last week that killed 17 people.

School officials have confirmed that walkouts are planned at Bailey and Gorzycki middle schools in Southwest Austin, Fulmore Middle School in South Austin and Anderson and McNeil high schools in Northwest Austin on Friday.

At Bailey Middle School, students plan to walk out at 10 a.m.

The walkouts at Anderson and McNeil are planned for the afternoon.

Austin Independent School District officials said school administrators will be with students as they walk out to ensure safety and order. No disciplinary action will be taken against them as long as the demonstrations are respectful, officials said.

“We respect our students’ right to engage civically on matters important to them,” Edmund Oropez, Austin ISD’s chief schools officer, said in a statement.

On Wednesday, nearly 500 students across Central Texas participated in walkouts, with more than 100 from Small Middle School in Southwest Austin. They left their classrooms throughout the afternoon in protest, chanting “No school shootings!”

Similar demonstrations have occurred across the country after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when a gunman, identified by authorities as a former student, opened fire and killed 17 people.

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