Coast schools honor 17 victims of the Parkland shooting - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Coast schools honor 17 victims of the Parkland shooting

A sign reading "enough is enough" hangs above Ocean Springs High Wednesday, where students walked out as part of National Walkout Day. (Source: WLOX) A sign reading "enough is enough" hangs above Ocean Springs High Wednesday, where students walked out as part of National Walkout Day. (Source: WLOX)
Students from Ocean Springs High gather after walking out of class Wednesday. (Source: WLOX) Students from Ocean Springs High gather after walking out of class Wednesday. (Source: WLOX)
Hundreds of students walk out of their classrooms at Pascagoula High School as part of a national movement to end school violence (photo credit: WLOX) Hundreds of students walk out of their classrooms at Pascagoula High School as part of a national movement to end school violence (photo credit: WLOX)
Walkout student organizer Kenyatta Thomas takes the podium (Photo Source: WLOX) Walkout student organizer Kenyatta Thomas takes the podium (Photo Source: WLOX)
Students at Long Beach High School (Photo Source: WLOX) Students at Long Beach High School (Photo Source: WLOX)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

It has been one month since 17 people were killed inside a high school in Parkland, Fla. And in honor of the six students and nine faculty members who died inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, students across the country walked out of their classrooms today to lobby for stricter gun control laws. 

In South Mississippi, two schools participated in National School Walkout Day, an initiative organized by the group Empower, who hosts the Women's March in Washington each year. However, schools all over the Coast remembered the victims of the Parkland shooting in their own way.

At 10 a.m., students at  Pascagoula High peacefully walked out of their classrooms, standing on the football field for 17 minutes as an act of solidarity and a push to end school violence in honor of the victims killed last month.

"I think that all these students are concerned about their safety," said student organizer Kenyatta Thomas. 

Five students organizers took the podium, listing incidents of school violence and naming the victims in the Parkland, FL school shooting. They also held a moment of silence.

"I couldn't be more proud of them taking that initiative," said Pascagoula High School Principal Anthony Herbert.

Principal Herbert said he met with student organizers several times over the last couple of weeks to go over the logistics for the walkout. He also helped the student speakers hone in on their message.

"I believe they were really out here to support the message that they're tired of school violence," he said.

Students chanted and held signs that read, "WE HAVE A VOICE" and "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. They're making a statement to end school violence.

"I think that having this many numbers shows that something needs to be done. If this many people, this many students, can decide I need to come out here listen to what they have to say, I have to show that I am concerned about something," Thomas said. "I think that a lot of them were listening."

The official headcount of students participating at Pascagoula was 800. 

Next on the agenda for these student leaders: A march to demand better safety in schools. It's scheduled for March 24 in Gulfport at the federal courthouse. It begins at 10 a.m.

Pascagoula High is the only school that is listed on Empower's website as a walkout school. More than 400 students are signed up to walk out of class.

Students at Ocean Springs High also walked out, congregating in the school's courtyard to observe a moment of silence. The names of the 17 victims were then read aloud. School officials, including superintendent Bonita Coleman, sanctioned the event, saying it’s a great way for students to express their concerns.

At Biloxi High, students from the student council and yearbook staff rang the school's large bell in the courtyard 17 times before releasing 17 balloons in honor of the victims. Following that, an assembly focusing on better school safety standards was held. According to school administrators, speakers, including some officers from Biloxi Police Department, will speak to students about awareness and preparedness.

Gulfport High students wore wear maroon, silver, and burgundy - the colors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School - to remember the victims of last month's shooting. They also held a moment of silence for 17 minutes beginning at 8 a.m.

St. Patrick High, a private Catholic school, joined together for a prayer service, reflecting on the shooting victims Wednesday morning. Led by students, both the service and the reflection were held in front of the school's statue of the Virgin Mary. "There were a bunch of demonstrations today and I knew that St. Patrick had to be one of those leading voices because of our Catholic mission," said senior Matthew Bisner. "I can't say that I have a specific way to stop this violence. All I know is that some change is necessary, and the bottom line is that children don't want to have to fear coming to school." During the service Bisner read the names of all 17 victims of the school shooting.

Students at Long Beach High also hosted its own event, which included speeches from the students and authorities on school safety and awareness. The students are also taking part in a project called "Posting Positivity," where they are placing post-it notes with encouraging messages throughout the school. 

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