Several hundred students at Stivers School for the Arts walked out of the classroom Wednesday as part of a National Walkout Day.
The event fell exactly one month after a deadly shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“Once we saw all of the students in Parkland, the way they responded (after the shooting), we were really inspired,” said Zoe Laub, a senior at Stivers. “We decided that we were going to make our voices heard, too.”
Fellow Stivers senior Zoe’ Williams added, “It’s not in our nature to see something and let it be.”
At 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, part of the Stivers student body walked onto the school’s soccer field for a short memorial service. The students rang a bell, read the name of each of the 17 victims killed in the Parkland shooting and followed with a minute of silence after each name.
“It was just us making a statement that we’re all here and we’re standing here for them,” explained Deborah Cole-Taylor.
Initially, Dayton Public Schools told students planning to walkout that they could face suspension if they left class. Student organizers at Stivers made their case to the school and district, assuring administrators the walkout would be a memorial, rather than a political rally or excuse to cut class.
Some students wore ribbons that said “#Enough,” a social media hashtag coined for National Walkout Day, meant as a message for lawmakers to reform gun laws.
Wednesday morning, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley reference the movement during a city commission meeting.
“These young people are moving the conversation in ways mayors haven’t been able to, and even police chiefs in some cases haven’t been able to, about passing common sense gun laws,” Whaley said.
Whaley, along with several commissioners, attended the Stivers walkout. Students said participants with any perspectives on the national gun debate were welcome to the event.
“It was a coming together of both sides of the equation,” said Laub. “It wasn’t just one side of the gun argument. It was everyone.”
Many of the Stivers seniors participating said after graduation, they’re poised to create change and fight against violence.
“You have a voice and that voice matters,” said Williams. “It doesn’t matter if you’re 14, 15. You’re a person and that’s what counts.”