Photo by Sean Roney
King City High School Assistant Principal Michael Gray talks to students who participated in National Walkout Day on March 14.


KING CITY — Students trickled out of scattered classrooms as the clock struck 10 a.m. last Wednesday, where King City High School staff and security were in position to ask why the youth were leaving their classrooms.

Only 14 students answered with their intent to participate in the National Walkout Day, and were directed to go to the cafeteria. Those 14 participated in a moment of silence as well as a short discussion about the ongoing national gun violence debate.

Other students gave differing reasons for being outside, or no reason at all, and were directed back to their classrooms.

“The safety of the students is our No. 1 priority,” said Principal Janet Sanchez-Matos, noting KCHS is a closed campus. “We respect their right to have a walkout and demonstration, but it needs to be done in a safe way.”

The Wednesday bell schedule caused a hiccup in the King City version of the walkout, where the planned 17 minutes fell at the end of third period, straddled the passing period, and took up the beginning of fourth period.

“We’ll have a sign-in so we can excuse them from being tardy to the next class,” Sanchez-Matos said.

The teachable moment at the cafeteria was led by Assistant Principal Michael Gray, who went through a PowerPoint presentation with the name of those who perished in the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla. Additionally, teachers had been told to potentially use the time duration of the walkout as a teachable moment inside their classrooms.

“We created an opportunity for the students to know what they’re really walking out for,” Sanchez-Matos said.

Gray began his presentation by discussing the reasoning and symbolism of the walkout date, being one month after the Parkland shooting, and in remembrance of the 17 fallen. Those in attendance observed a moment of silence where Gray read the names of all 17 Parkland victims. From there, he moved on to a discussion that prompted the students to give their ideas and feedback about the situation.

“This is about your voice. This is why you’re here,” said Gray to the students. “Share your thoughts. You have a voice and that’s what this is about, empowering youth and empowering people to speak when they need to speak.”

Ninth-grader Chelsea Crofts weighed in on one of the gun control topics brought up, saying, “Raising the age (to purchase) shows that they want them more mature.” She added, of requiring the age of 21 for gun sales, “I agree with this.”

Tenth-grader Claudia Howell said, “You’re not supposed to drink until you’re 21 and people still drink as teenagers,” adding, “I feel like it’s not how old you are.”

Gray asked the students to consider their discussion of age and how it relates to age requirements on voting or joining the military. Later, he said, “It opened up more dialogue for students to understand. Maybe there’s a bigger issue that’s going on.”

In addition to other gun control ideas that have been brought up in the past month, including bans on assault rifles and background checks, Gray also connected the discussion to the anti-bullying week held at the beginning of the school year. He asked students if they considered “possibly going to that isolated individual that you see on campus and befriending them. Talking to them. Because sometimes some of these people that do these shootings feel isolated from society and picked on and just have finally had enough.”

He added, “There’s other ways you can also help and also prevent some of these things from happening.”

Afterward, Gray said, “There’s more you can expand on that can be teachable moments.” He noted the amount of students who showed up “speaks volumes about the kids and their wanting to be heard.”

Overall, he said he felt the walkout went well in letting the students know they had a voice.

Sanchez-Matos said the school anticipated no more than 20 students to show up. “When there’s a walkout, this is normally what we get.”

Gray informed the students of related nationwide protests and walks, including the March 24 protest that will fall on a Saturday, and the April 20 anniversary of the 1999 Columbine shooting, where people are encouraged to wear orange.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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