Students around South Florida participated in classroom walkouts one week after the mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fl.
The walkouts were to begin at noon and last 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost in last week's shooting. Organizers called them an act of compassion for the lives lost and to make a statement about the need for gun law reform.
The day before, hundreds of students from West Boca Raton High School walked out of class and marched for several hours until they reached Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland.
At Miami Palmetto Senior High in Pinecrest, students exited their classrooms and spilled into the halls of the first-floor courtyard chanting: "What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!" They marched together holding handmade signs that called for gun control and school safety reform.
When the 17 minutes were up, a school faculty member got on a bullhorn to tell the students to return to their classrooms. "You've had your time, please return to fifth period," was said a few times but the students exited the confines of the school fence instead and began to march on the sidewalk surrounding the building.
Miami Dade County Public School police officers were joined by school security and Pinecrest policemen in watching over the students and staying within a few feet of them during the rest of the march.
37-year-old Felipe Mack has been a security guard at Palmetto High for two years. He said he was surprised at the serious tone of the walkout, as he expected more students to use the event as a ruse to goof off during class time.
"Man, that was wild. But these kids just want to be protected. We had something like this before, but they just sat in the pavilion and chanted for a few minutes and that was it. I did not think it would escalate like this," said Mack.
Liz Gallivan is the mother of a freshman and junior at Palmetto and said the school notified parents via email and voicemail that they would allow students to demonstrate without taking disciplinary action. One of her children did however get in trouble for walking off the school campus and participating in the walkout for past the allotted 17 minutes.
"I gave them permission to do it. This was their moment as young adults to express themselves...I believe that what these kids are doing is a change that's needed because obviously the adults aren't being heard, you know, so hopefully they are able to make a difference that we were unable to make." said Gallivan.
Students' opinions on the necessity of walkout itself varied.
Although he is "not against it," 18-year-old senior Victor Valderrama did not participate in the walkout because he feels just as safe attending Palmetto now as he did prior to the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. "I think our school is pretty secure. I don't really worry about that stuff," he said.
But sophomore Nathaly Vilchez said, "I've kinda been a little scared to come to school because I feel like anything could happen, a shooting could happen at any minute." She walked out of class with some friends but chose to stay on the campus.
Vilchez' aunt, Emilia Mejia said "I think that [protesting] is a good thing, maybe the government will do something about it."