About 1,000 La Jolla High School (LJHS) students — two-thirds of the student body — filed out of class and into the football stadium stands to participate in the national walkout against school gun violence on Thursday, March 14.
The walkout was scheduled for 17 minutes at 10 a.m., one minute for every victim killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida exactly a month earlier, but started three minutes late because students were still filing in. Parents and community members were not permitted to attend and had to watch from the sidewalk outside.
The event began when 17 students, each holding a sign with a Stoneman Douglas victim’s name and likeness, read the name and a three-sentence bio of the victim.
It was planned by a student committee organized by 17-year-old LJHS junior Shushu Crevoshay, who told the Light: “I believe I should not be afraid to come to school because of gun violence in the United States and I believe that something needs to be done. We shouldn’t be afraid to come to campus because there’s a chance a shooter will come in and injure our friends and our teachers.”
The walkout occurred a week after a LJHS student was arrested for making threats, verbally and online, of violence against the school. (The threat was determined not to be credible.)
“It was poor timing but also good timing, I think,” Crevoshay said, “because it was a wake-up call for everyone to realize that this is real and this can happen to us and we need to get together.”
While students in other locations ditched school for the protest, more than 2,800 more collaborative on-campus demonstrations like LJHS’s were held across the country. (Muirlands Middle School, The Bishop’s School and the Preuss School held similarly sanctioned events.) All LJHS students were allowed to participate in what administrators referred to as their “walk-in.”At LJHS, guest speaker LaShea Cretain of El Cajon told of being shot by an ex-boyfriend who was able to buy a gun even after she reported him to police as a dangerous stalker. But what really moved students were short speeches given by six students. Ariella Shamir, an 18-year-old senior, couldn’t even make it through hers without breaking down.
“Although I am heartbroken,” Shamir said as Crevoshay approached her from behind to rub her shoulders in support, “I hope our voices together will inspire gun reform in Washington, so that we can end violence and feel safe in school. If not for us, then at least out of expect for the victims and their families, I urge Congress to pass gun reform.”
Both Crevoshay and the administration stressed that the walkout was to be non-political. But some students couldn’t help themselves.
“Students across America remain terrified at what threats they may encounter going to school,” said junior Sophie McCormick, 16. “And we will continue to be terrified knowing how easy it is for anyone to obtain such deadly weapons. We as students are demanding reform. We are demanding to not be afraid to walk down the hallways at school.”
LJHS principal Chuck Podhorsky watched from behind a goalpost.
“I couldn’t be more proud of my students,” he said after the event. “I think they did a fabulous job and communicated their message really well.”
Following the walkout, students were encouraged to continue their activism by signing up at letter-writing and voter-registration tables set up outside during lunch.
An LJHS staffer said she didn’t know by press time whether any students had stayed home today in protest, but thought it appeared as though activism-minded students “showed up in force” to participate.
However, there is a national student walkout planned for April 20th — the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine shooting — that could still lure students off school property for the day.
“I think we’re going to plan on walking out and not returning on April 20th,” said senior Cole Wolf, 18.