San Diego

‘Proud': San Diego County Parents, Teachers Support Student Walkouts

As thousands of high school students across San Diego County walked out of their classrooms Wednesday to call for gun reform, most parents and teachers looked on proudly but some expressed anger that schools allowed their children to participate.

The walkouts came exactly one month after 17 people, mostly students, were killed in a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida and were organized by the group Empower at more than 3,000 schools across the country.

In San Diego, students left their classrooms -- and in some cases the campus entirely -- for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. The demonstrations were meant to call on legislators to act in creating stricter gun laws for school safety.

As students at Patrick Henry High School, part of the San Diego Unified School District, gathered in a circle in an open quad at the center of their campus for the call to action, faculty looked on from the perimeter.

"I think that they have more perspective than people give them credit for," said Valerie Crawford, an English teacher at the school. "It was just very powerful for these young people to get together and say 'this is our time and we have to take action.'"

The Students at Patrick Henry high put together their own program for the 17-minute walkout that included a song written by survivors of the Parkland shooting and sung by the school’s choir.

"We’re tired of hearing that were too young to ever make a change," the students sang.

"I just feel a really strong connection to all the students that put time and effort into doing this," said Nicole Sakelios, a U.S. History teacher at Patrick Henry. "Everybody is getting back to class on time and it looks like we didn’t have any issues."

Sakelios said faculty were concerned for the student's safety, "but Patrick Henry stood up and took care of business."

But some parents told NBC 7 the schools were wrong to allow students to participate in the demonstration.

"This is not the answer," said the parent of a student at Chula Vista High School. "Those students should be in school. If they want to do something in regard to the pain, they should say it in the classroom instead of making a big thing where more minds, more trouble."

The parent said that the students were too young to be expressing their political views.

"Maybe they’re promoting something that shouldn’t be promoted. After all, the students aren’t even old enough to do that. In a way, I would say they are kind of controlling their minds."

Other parents were grateful the school gave their children a platform for those views.

"They can express themselves freely and they don't have to worry about getting punished for it; that's a good thing," said Tony Cisneros, a parent of a student at Chula Vista High School.

There were several students that chose not to participate in the demonstrations Wednesday, Sakelios told NBC 7. 

"I told them that I wouldn’t have someone else cover my class so I could join [the students walking out,]" Sakelios said. I wanted to respect their decision to not walk out."

Sakelios said although she didn't want to force it, the students were willing to talk about why they chose not to walk out of class. 

She watched the walkout from her classroom door. 

"I wanted to cry but I really tried to hold it while watching," Sakelios said. "I was pretty much smiling the whole time knowing the students put it together. They really did it out of a special place in their heart and that's so important." 

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