INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Central Indiana students joined thousands across the country Wednesday in walking out of classrooms.
The nationwide protest is part of an initiative advocating for stricter gun legislation and safer schools.
At George Washington Community High school on the near west side, school officials say more than 250 students walked out.
The students stood on the front steps and lawn of the building for 17 minutes. A show of solidarity for the 17 lives lost in during a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
“The country is getting so bad with guns to the point where there’s lives being lost. And we just felt the need that this needs to stop,” Eighth grader Javon Montgomery said.
During the protest, the students held handmade signs advocating for increased gun legislation and school safety. They often broke out into chants and songs proclaiming, “stop the violence,” or “no more gun violence.”
“The Second Amendment says you have the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say you have the right to go and act in such violence against people that are completely innocent,” Eighth grader Jordan Cruz Martinez said.
According to an IPS spokesperson, students from every IPS high school, most of their middle schools, and some elementary schools participated in the walkout.
Spokesperson Carrie Cline Black says she applauds the students for expressing their First Amendment rights and considered the day a learning experience for many students.
“We embrace our students being able to express their First Amendment rights to free speech and to be able to peacefully demonstrate and protest on issues they’re passionate about,” she said.
Other school districts also joined the protests.
Opting to stay indoors for their protest, the students of Carmel High School gathered in a gym and held photos of each of the 17 victims killed in Parkland, Florida. During the event they also read each of the victim’s names aloud.
Organizers of the event say they hope the display sends the message to lawmakers that they are demanding change.
“Its continuing that advocacy that’s really going to make a change because this walkout alone is not going to get good legislation,” freshman Isabella Fallahi said.
Indiana Senators Joe Donnelly (D) and Todd Young (R) have since responded to the protests.
In a statement Senator Young said:
“We must ensure our schools have the resources needed to keep students safe and prevent another horrible tragedy like Parkland from occurring. By encouraging school safety infrastructure upgrades, more school counselors and mental health professionals, and improved communication, these bills can help keep our kids safe,”
While Senator Donnelly said:
“It’s encouraging to see so many students making their voices heard in our communities. I believe that we need to take action to reduce gun violence and make sure our schools are safe places to learn. Every student and teacher has the right to go to school every day in a safe environment—and parents and loved ones should be able to trust that they will come home safe at the end of each school day. I will continue to work in a bipartisan way to address these issues.”