Ten Grant Union Junior-Senior High School students quietly observed Wednesday’s national school walkout in John Day.
The students stood outside the school for about 17 minutes at 10 a.m. to remember the 17 victims who died in a school shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and to protest gun violence.
Junior Cody Combs held a sign that read “Enough, Am I Next?” and junior Savannah Randleas had a red sign with a heart.
“We’re supporting everyone,” Randleas said.
Junior McKeely Miller said they weren’t trying to make any changes at Grant Union, but were supporting other students.
“It’s not a political thing,” she said. “We’re just trying to make the country a better place and a safer place.”
Junior Kobe Cantrell simply said, “Rest in peace 17 victims.”
Junior Garrett Lenz said, “It’s sad that our school didn’t participate in the event, because it’s nationwide.”
Some students at Grant Union who didn’t participate in Wednesday’s walkout said they didn’t like the idea and were concerned about the protection of Second Amendment rights.
Grant Union Principal Ryan Gerry sent a letter home to all the students’ parents and guardians to let them know about the walkout. He said students participating would be marked with an unexcused absence, consistent with their student handbook rules for being more than 15 minutes late for class.
During the walkout, Superintendent Curt Shelley and Dean of Students Jason Miller stood with Gerry to watch over the students.
Gerry said the letter to parents was informational and provided transparency.
“They have a right to their freedom of speech, and we completely support that,” he said. “This is not a school-sponsored event, so we neither support nor oppose it, but we do take school safety seriously, and it’s always at the forefront, and we’re always looking for ways to improve that.”
Students from two other Grant County schools participated in the walkout.
Two Monument students were involved in the walkout, freshman Mark Thomas and senior Bailey Thomas.
Four high school and two middle school students from Dayville School also walked out.
Those students met in their school gym, where Superintendent/Principal Kathryn Hedrick met with them.
“I asked the students if it was OK if I join the conversation,” she said.
“There was no marching or shouting, just a conversation of what brought us there and what we hoped to achieve,” Hedrick said. “Not everybody was unified on why they were there, but it centered on gun violence — while we may disagree about the guns themselves, no one is going to support gun violence.”
School officials from Prairie City and Long Creek schools reported they had no students involved in the walkout.
Another student-organized national school walkout is set for Friday, April 20, the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.