Why school administrators are supporting more student walkouts

AUSTIN (KXAN) --  Several more central Texas schools are joining in the national movement of walking out of class as part of a national call for gun reform.

Friday, students at Bailey Middle School staged a walkout for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed at a school in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month.

Students at Anderson High School also staged a walkout with 17 minutes of silence for the victims as well, then chanted and even marched for more than an hour.

At Anderson High, hundreds of students walked out just after 1 p.m. The students were chanting: "What do we want? Gun control right now!"

Junior Jami Anderson says she got the idea to call for a walkout on Wednesday, and within just two days, she was able to garner support from nearly the entire school.

"I used Snapchat," Anderson laughed, when explaining how she got the word out.

"This is the most community I've ever seen in our school," said Chloe Hernandez, a friend of Anderson's.

Anderson High School students said they no longer feel safe going to school, which is unacceptable.

"We don't want to have to be forced to tell our parents 'I love you' before we leave," said Junior Zaid Hassan. "We want to be looking forward to coming home and hugging our parents."

"It really breaks my heart that it took 17 kids to die in order for us to stand up," Junior Elizabeth Evans said. "But, it's happening, and we're standing for those who can't."

Students say teachers at Anderson High were very supportive of their demonstration.

"I was walking with my poster from my car and my English teacher was like, 'Great! That's good for you. I'm glad you guys are doing this,'" said Junior Gyasi Bonds.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz says students who choose to walk out will not face punishment, and he supports their right to free speech.

"These are very serious situations," Cruz says. "They are talking about student safety and so are we. And working together, we can make sure that we have the best practices in place at all of our schools. We do not discipline our students if there is a type of walkout."

Cruz says he wants parents to know that adults will be with the students when they walk out of class and everyone will stay on campus.

Bailey Middle School Principal John Rocha sent home a letter to parents stating, "we will try to take advantage of the teachable moment to connect their protest to their rights under the First Amendment. After the protest we will guide the students back to classes to resume the school day."

Earlier this week, students at Small Middle School in Austin, as well as schools in Dripping Springs and Georgetown, walked out of class in protest.

The organizers behind the Women's March have called for a national walkout day on March 14 - however, that falls during spring break for most Central Texas schools.

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