Darien students take part in National Walkout Day
DARIEN — Between 600 and 700 Darien High School students participated in National Walkout Day March 14, a month after the killing of 17 students and faculty members at Marjory Stoneman School in Parkland, Fla.
According to junior Katherine Lester, a member of the unofficial student committee that planned the event, more students decided to exit their classrooms at 10 a.m. than was expected. The crowd gathered in the high school courtyard where several student speakers made comments and read off the biographies of all 17 victims who lost their lives in Florida last month.
“Everyone was really respectful. I know that some people were angry that we didn’t make it political enough. Some were angry we made it too political. But you can’t please everyone,” Lester said, though she added that both sides of the political aisle were represented in the crowd.
Lester said she and the other student leaders felt mostly supported by faculty and staff, though some teachers expressed frustration that the walkout, which lasted slightly longer than the stated 17 minutes, disrupted class time.
Administrators barred members of the press and public from entering campus during the walkout. There was a heavy police presence at the school during the protest.
In an email March 20, Board of Education Chairperson Tara Ochman cited security concerns and praised the students’ efforts.
“The student-led walkout was well organized and we were proud to see our students find their voice on a national issue they clearly feel connected to, and do so respectfully,” Ochman said. “The Board of Education and the administration take the safety and security of our children and our staff seriously. Their well-being is always a top priority.”
Lester and her committee members were careful to note that they wanted to create an environment in which students with differing political opinions could take part in the dialogue.
“For some people this was the start of a political movement. For others this was about remembering the victims and calling attention to school safety. For others this was a protest again the NRA (National Rifle Association),” Lester said. “It was nice that we could come together and show our solidarity. But with a school like this, how big it is, everyone is going to have different opinions.”
Humberto J. Rocha contributed to this report.