San Diego

San Diego County Students Walk Out for Second Gun Violence Protest This Year

Students with banners and signs that read "never again" made their way out of class and through the streets of San Diego County Friday for a second round of nationwide walkouts to call for reform that puts an end to gun violence at schools.

Friday's walkouts came on the 19-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history until 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February.

Students at schools from Del Norte and High Tech high schools in North County to Scripps Ranch and University City high schools in San Diego, stepped out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. to coincide with National School Walkout Day events across the United States. 

While several schools planned moments of silence and on-campus demonstrations, footage captured by Newschopper 7 showed lines of students walking with signs in hand on sidewalks in La Jolla. Similar images were captured across the country. 

Students hoped the demonstrations would make an impact on leaders in Washington. Some told NBC 7 they want Congress to make changes like banning assault weapons and implementing universal background checks.

In the days leading up to the walkouts, one student at Coronado High School posted fliers on social media urging classmates to walk out and not come back. Junior Savannah Rose said students should not return until Congress makes changes to gun legislation. 

"Congress has not changed laws and so we slowly need to step up what we're doing and escalate it so that Congress is finally pushed to change the laws," Rose said.

She said students have to be the ones to make change. 

"We have to do this. I mean, we are students and adults are not protecting us. We have to protect ourselves and do this for everyone," Rose said. 

In response to the fliers, the Coronado High School District sent a letter to parents informing them students "choosing to leave school grounds during instructional time will be marked truant and appropriate discipline will be dispensed."

Only a handful of students walked out of Coronado High School Friday. Some students said they felt intimidated by the school's administration who encouraged them not to walk out. An assembly was scheduled to coincide with the walkout, according to students. 

The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) said there is potential disciplinary action for students who walk out of school and do not return. They can be marked as having an unexcused absence and may need to make up the time on a Saturday, the SDUSD said.

The California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter to 19 school districts ahead of Friday's march. In them, the ACLU said punishing students for exercising their right to protest goes against the constitution. 

The letters said that students cannot be suspended or expelled for participating in walkouts or off-campus protests, students can't be marked truant for a single unexcused tardy or absence and students can't be locked into campus to prevent walkouts. 

SDUSD said any student with written permission from a parent will face no consequences and although the district supports the students' right to demonstrate, cannot endorse the walkouts. 

Instead, school officials urged parents and their children to consider alternatives to walking out, like a writing activity that would allow students to express their concerns, according to a letter sent by University City High School.

The Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) encouraged students to schedule activities at the school and limit the amount of time during the regular school day the demonstration will take place. 

"The Parkland school shooting has prompted emotion and student engagement across our nation, however, for safety reasons, we are encouraging students to remain on campus and in school during the scheduled walkouts,” SUHSD said. 

The first National School Walkout was held last month and several schools across the county took part. While most believed the walkouts can make an impact on leaders, some felt it wasn't an effective use of time. 

"We basically walked around the campus and we also signed petitions as well," Sweetwater Union High School senior Cindy Cabaluna said. "People just did it to ditch class, so I really didn't think it was very effective."

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