LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Students walked out of school Friday to mark the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado and protest what organizers call the failure of elected officials to tackle gun violence.
Thousands of students from Los Angeles to Irvine took part in the walkout, which included organized student gatherings on multiple campuses. More than 2,100 walkouts were planned nationally, with at least one in every state.
“We really want to send a message that students will not stand for congresspeople who accept donations from the NRA,” an Irvine student named Ava said. “We believe in people over profit — we want our congresspeople to support our lives, or in the next election and over the course of the next four years students are graduating, it will be their jobs that are on the line.”
Hundreds of LAUSD students marched on City Hall, with some taking a Metro train from North Hollywood High School in the San Fernando Valley to join the rally in downtown Los Angeles.
“Guns are just this big problem now,” one teenage girl said. “Some people don’t even realize how bad it is, how bad of a problem it is.”
The walkouts began at 10 a.m. on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting, which left 12 students and one teacher dead, in addition to the two gunmen. The protests paused at one point for 13 seconds of silence in memory of the lives lost at Columbine.
The planned protest led to some controversy at South Gate High School that drew the ACLU’s attention. Students say Principal Gerardo Llamas got on the school’s PA system and said anyone who walked out Friday would not be able to go to prom.
LAUSD officials say the principal reversed himself, and sent a recorded message to parents Thursday night would not be punished for participating in the walkout. In a statement, the interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian said the district respects the right of students to advocate for causes that are important to them.
“When students are passionate about an issue, it is an opportunity for educators to help them see the relationship between curriculum and real life. We want this day to be a teachable moment that connects what our future leaders are learning daily in the classroom — about reading, writing, problem-solving, civic engagement and collaboration — to the events taking place in our nation,” the statement said.
Teenagers across the country have been inspired by the spirit of political activism since 17 people were shot to death at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Valentine’s Day. Southern California students were among the millions nationwide who walked out of school for 17 minutes on the 1-month anniversary of the Parkland shooting. Just a week later, the March for Our Lives protest saw dozens of rallies in Southern California alone, among the hundreds held around the world.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)