Students across Central Texas stage walkouts against gun violence

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Students across Central Texas staged walkouts on Wednesday afternoon to bring awareness to gun violence in schools.

At Dripping Springs High School, the front courtyard of the school was full of students protesting, some with signs that read: “So when will enough really be enough.” The poster had photos of the students killed in the Florida school shooting. Despite the rain, the students gathered to speak about their concerns and what kind of action they want to see. Around 200 students protested.

Students from Georgetown’s East View High and Leander Independent School District’s Vista Ridge High also held protests from 12 p.m. to 12:17 p.m — 17 minutes for the 17 students who died in the shooting.

“We need people to step up and do something about this,” said Alexis Armstrong, a sophomore at East View High School. “I’m just sick of all these people getting away with murder.”

Armstrong says at times she doesn’t feel safe in school and neither do some of her friends. “My friend, I was hanging out with her and she said ‘Lexi I don’t want to go to school on Wednesday,’ and I said, ‘why what’s wrong? Are your classes not going good?’ and she said ‘I’m scared.'”

Students from Dripping Springs High School stand in the rain protesting gun violence in schools. (KXAN Photo)
Students from Dripping Springs High School stand in the rain protesting gun violence in schools. (KXAN Photo)

Armstrong says she’s walked through side and back doors to her school before — doors she feels should’ve been locked. “But that’s just me, what if someone who didn’t even go to our school came armed, walked into our school, that’s terrifying to think of,” explains Armstrong.

Protesters say more armed officers could be a solution. Each high school and middle school in Georgetown has one school resource officer.

“People say that things are getting done and it just hasn’t been a dramatic difference and these experiences are so big,” said East View freshman Ashlyn Valadez. “Stuff just needs to happen, and it needs to happen big and it needs to happen fast.”

“This is awesome though, everybody is getting around and they want to see a difference in the world,” said senior Amy Chavez.

Georgetown ISD says they are exploring the idea of adding more school resource officers. The district will also start using a program called Avoid, Deny, Defend to train staff and students on how to respond in the event of an active shooter incident. It’s the same program some law enforcement officers use nationwide.

Middle school students also conducted walkouts. The Austin Independent School District says around 100 students at Clint Small Middle School walked out in the morning and then a couple more dozen students walked out during lunchtime. The students chanted, “No more school shootings!”

A Houston-area school district threatened to suspend students who disrupt classes or walk out to protest current gun laws. The Houston Chronicle reports that the Needville ISD superintendent sent a letter to families and published on schools’ social media Tuesday saying students would face a three-day, out-of-school suspension if they joined in growing protests nationwide over last week’s school shooting.

Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the commissioner of the Texas Education Agency Wednesday outlining a number of steps the state agency needs to do to help respond and prevent school shootings.

“As Governor, I take seriously the safety of all Texas residents, and as an American, I mourn the loss of 17 Floridians in a cruel and senseless act of violence. Immediate steps must be taken to keep our students and communities safe, with the understanding that more will be expected in the future.”

Abbott’s letter outlines the following steps:

  • Catalog and share all available information from the Texas School Safety Center on school safety programs and distribute this information to all school districts, charter schools and education service centers across the state. To the extent possible, distribute this information to private schools and childcare providers as well. The goal is to ensure that all schools have access to the best, most up to date information about strategies to protect schools and students from attacks like the one in Parkland.
  • Ensure that all Texas public schools have completed their statutorily required school safety audits and have submitted confirmation of these audits to the Texas School Safety Center. Also, ensure that all districts have a multi-hazard emergency operations plan in place and ensure that schools have conducted safety and security audits on all facilities, both instructional and non-instructional.
  • Publish on the Texas Education Agency website and via Agency press release a list of any school districts that have not completed the statutory requirements referenced in point two above within 45 days.
  • Work with the Texas School Safety Center, the Texas Department of Public Safety and Abbott’s office to draft recommendations to the Texas Legislature on changes to the school safety architecture of our state.
Students at Austin ISD's Clint Small Middle School protesting gun violence in schools. (KXAN Photo/Frank Martinez)

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