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Students from Cedar Shoals High School meet with a reporter to discuss a walkout in support of gun control that happened earlier in the day in Athens, Georgia on Friday, April 20, 2018. Students still do not feel safe at school and even spend time planning potential exit routes in the event of a school shooting. (Photo/ Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

While many high schoolers were doing homework on Tuesday after school, Camryn Tanner, a 16-year-old student at Cedar Shoals High School, was making posters and organizing for the National School Walkout happening at the end of that week.

"If I can't be a part of this on the front lines I won't be happy with myself, so I had to do something," Tanner said.

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Students from Cedar Shoals High School meet with a reporter to discuss a walkout in support of gun control that happened earlier in the day in Athens, Georgia on Friday, April 20, 2018. Students still do not feel safe at school and even spend time planning potential exit routes in the event of a school shooting. (Photo/ Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

On April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting that resulted in the death of 12 students and one teacher, Clarke County students participated in the Nationwide School Walkout to "send a message that we won't tolerate any more inaction on this issue."

As a survivor of gun violence herself, Tanner felt compelled to start a local chapter of the National Association of Students Against Gun Violence at Cedar Shoals to organize efforts for gun control on the highschool level.

"We are the future," Tanner said. "We need to all gather and make it known that most of us, if not all of us, want common sense gun laws and reform."

More than 500 students at Cedar Shoals walked out of their class, Tanner said. They left during third period and gathered on the football field, where students spoke on the importance of gun reform and stood in solidarity with victims of gun violence. Some held handmade signs and cheered after the speakers.


"School is a place of education … It shouldn't be a place where I sit in the library with my best friends planning escape routes in case someone decides to shoot it up." 

-Elizabeth Sidenstecker, Cedar Shoals student


 

On behalf of the National School Walkout movement, students were encouraged to wear orange. They were also encouraged to take a minute of silence around 10 a.m. for victims of gun violence, followed by an additional 13 seconds of silence for the victims of the Columbine shooting.

Elizabeth Sidenstecker, a 16-year-old student from Cedar Shoals, also spoke at the walkout. She not only feels unsafe in her own school, she also feels like no measures are being taken to create a safer school environment.

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Students from Cedar Shoals High School meet with a reporter to discuss a walkout in support of gun control that happened earlier in the day in Athens, Georgia on Friday, April 20, 2018. Students still do not feel safe at school and even spend time planning potential exit routes in the event of a school shooting. (Photo/ Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

"I feel like high schoolers shouldn't have to fear going to school," Sidenstecker said. "School is a place of education … It shouldn't be a place where I sit in the library with my best friends planning escape routes in case someone decides to shoot it up."

For Tanner, organizing events like the walkout shows that high schoolers are going to "keep resisting until a difference is being made."

After the walk out, some students did not attend class for the rest of the day. These students were checked out by their parents, Tanner said. Those skipping class were encouraged by the National School Walkout movement to call their representatives and register to vote during this time.

Cedar Shoals students said they were told that there would be disciplinary actions for students who left school grounds without being properly checked out, but CCSD policy prohibits the school from confirming this, said Mary Wickwire, the executive assistant of human resources for CCSD, though no students left the grounds unauthorized.

Schools spent the "last several weeks working with principals at all four area middle schools and both high schools to create a plan for the day ensuring that staff, students and parents are aware of expectations and plans," according to a press release from CCDS Office of Public Relations and Communications.

This type of planning and communication with administration was encouraged by the National School Walkout movement, which is powered and led by students across the nation.

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Students from Cedar Shoals High School meet with a reporter to discuss a walkout in support of gun control that happened earlier in the day in Athens, Georgia on Friday, April 20, 2018. Students still do not feel safe at school and even spend time planning potential exit routes in the event of a school shooting. (Photo/ Emily Haney, emilyhaney.com)

Moving forward, both Tanner and Sidenstecker have plans for more organized events to push for stricter gun control. After this walkout, both students felt hopeful for change and empowered by their peers' participation in the walkout.

"I feel optimistic," Tanner said. "I kept finding myself looking at the people listening intently and supporting everyone and that made me really happy. A lot of us are coming together for a common cause. I definitely feel hope for the first time."

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