Oviedo Journalism

Remembrance walkout turns political

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*Name withheld upon request.

Signs were raised as students at Oviedo High School walked out of classrooms into a blazingly hot noon on Feb. 21. In light of the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – one that witnessed the loss of 17 students and teachers – mass marches, gatherings, vigils and walkouts have been planned by various groups across the nation, including at OHS.

“I just wanted a moment to grieve, you know?” said junior Abigail French. “A moment of silence for these people who were my age when they died.”


Earlier that morning, principal Joe Trybus received a list from the district of all the school walkouts that had been planned until the end of the school year. The first one, he noted with a degree of surprise, was in a few hours.

“I gathered my team around me and we planned out how to handle the situation,” Trybus said. “We decided that no students would have discipline consequences for walking out. I don’t want to prohibit the event, I want all my students to have a voice.”

Teachers were notified of the walkouts, and administrators emphasized that students would be  allowed to participate; they would not be encouraged nor discouraged from protesting in the courtyard of campus.

“I didn’t stop any of my students from walking out of the classroom, but I let them know they would be missing part of a lesson,” said AP Psychology teacher Hildreth House.

That moment set off a sprint by students, teachers and administrators to prepare for the walk-out. Students hurriedly drew signs and planned with friends as some teachers altered lesson plans, while administration heightened security.

“I follow a lot of social media accounts, and I saw that people were organizing this because the hashtag ‘walkout’ was trending,” said junior Holly Clements.* “I decided that I’d do it at that moment.”

French said that she learned about the whole thing in fifth period, less than an hour before the event.

“I thought it was a cause worth taking a stand for,” French said.

Senior Annabel Bland stated that she saw a lot of people walking out of her sixth period class.

“I realized, ‘Oh, this is the time of the walkout,’ as I didn’t really know what time it was planned,” Bland said. “So I went with them.”

House saw the opposite.

“My students didn’t go because they were afraid that there was a large number of people there,” House said.  

Adults were concerned about safety, as well.

“Officer Thompson wanted to call in some extra law enforcement in case something happened,” Trybus said. “Many of our administrators were there to supervise the many students who showed up.”

As the event neared, students were expectant of the positive possibilities of the protest. Senior Meghan Sisson stated that she heard the event would be peaceful.

“I thought the protest was going to be honoring the students at Marjory Stoneman and discussing the ways in which we could prevent this tragedy from happening,” said junior Julian Noah.

En Garde

While the walkout was originally planned as a 17-minute period to quietly honor those who passed away in the Parkland school shooting, the way it unfolded was different.

Amid the mass of students were propped-up signs, many of which proclaimed conflicting political views. The signs elicited raucous chants and cries from different factions of students.

“It became a rally,” said sophomore Victoria Barron.

Bland was disappointed by how the walkout turned out.

“It just turned into a bunch of students shouting and putting their own ideas forward, when really, it wasn’t supposed to be about any of that, it was supposed to be about honoring the victims,” Bland said.

Noah, however, felt the walkout was meant to be about gun control issues.

“But it was supposed to serve as a time when we could respectfully discuss what solutions we needed,” Noah said.

While pro-gun control signs – one read “ONE CHILD IS WORTH MORE THAN ANY GUN IN THE WORLD” – shot up into the sky at a dizzying rate, signs made by gun rights advocates were far and few in between.

Junior Alyssa Burnaby held up a sign that read “IGNORING IS NOT THE ANSWER.”

“I came out here to stand up and say that we need a change,” Burnaby said. “I have to wake up every day and hear about another school shooting. I don’t feel safe. I want something to be done; we can’t keep ignoring the fact that kids are being shot everyday.”

Bland echoed this sentiment.

“I’m just sick and tired of waking up to hear about this, and nothing being done,” Bland said. “That’s why I walked out.”

According to sophomore Andrea Vanegas, one sign changed the entire event.

“That one sign – the one that said ‘I support the Second Amendment’ – made the whole atmosphere feel angry,” Vanegas said. “There were a lot of people shouting and yelling after that.”

“I’d say that’s when the crowd started getting really riled up,” Clements said.

Sounds of Anger

Several signs were torn up by dissenters within a few minutes. The paper pieces of these ideas were showered into the air.

“When that happened, I thought it was really immature, because this was supposed to be an open-minded event,” Noah said.

Bland was disappointed.

“A lot of the kids holding up the provocatory signs were just there to start trouble,” Bland said. “I also saw like half the people walking out were just there to skip class. But that was not the purpose of the protest.”

A flag picturing the popular rallying cry “DON’T TREAD ON ME” also enraged many of the students. The flag was in favor of maintaining gun rights, which caused controversy among the gun control activists who were present.

“I consider myself a social activist; I believe that gun control regulations should be passed, especially after this,” Clements said. “I thought that ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flag was really stupid. This walkout was supposed to be about how to prevent this type of mass shooting from happening.”

An hour after the walkout ended, loud shouts and screams came from the courtyard area.

“It was really horrific and scary,” Barron said. “I heard someone broke their jaw in a fight that happened in front of building 8.”

Sophomore Rachel Mize stated that she heard someone was arrested, as did Sisson.

“Then someone else told me no one was arrested, they were just detained,” Sisson said.

A principal must be notified of any student arrests made on campus.

“No arrests have been made, as far as I know,” Trybus said.

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Remembrance walkout turns political