Students stage school walkouts nationwide to protest gun violence

- Students across the country walked out of class for 17 minutes Wednesday morning to protest gun violence and to honor the 17 students killed in the Florida high school shooting one month ago.

Many school districts in Georgia were supportive of the "National School Walkout," and thousands of metro Atlanta students participated with their classmates. 

At Lassiter High School in Cobb County on Wednesday, emotions were running high.

"We're not just out here protesting about too much homework or something like that. We are out here fighting for our lives. We need lawmakers to change the laws for buying firearms. You shouldn't be able to get a gun at 18," Julia Parker, Lassiter High School senior

"We just need to move forward on this issue with gun laws. Some of us are really in fear of getting shot at school," Ilana Regal, Lassiter High School senior.

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Some of the major school districts that participated in Georgia included Atlanta Public Schools, Clayton, Douglas, and Rockdale. Ahead of the walkout, which began at 10 a.m., APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen encouraged students to participate. She said this is a great opportunity for students to learn about civic engagement and have open discussions about gun control issues.

RELATED: National School Walkout: Students protest against gun violence across the country

"I think we have a unique experience compared to other districts. I'm not judging them but for Atlanta, we are doing the right thing that matches who we are as a community and are temperament for civic engagement," said Carstarphen.

RELATED: Training held for Wednesday's walk-out for Parkland protest

Carstarphen said students worked with school leaders to determine exactly what their plans were for the walkout, so schools could make the necessary security adjustments. 

Some of the demonstrations during the national walkout included students making human chains around their schools, and moments of silence.

Thousands of students held signs Wednesday morning, calling for gun violence to end. 

"Fear has no place in our schools," one student's sign read at Inman Middle School in northeast Atlanta. 

RELATED: Fulton County Schools hold 'safety summits' after Parkland shooting

Not all schools participated in National School Walkout. Fulton County Public Schools issued the following statement ahead of the walkouts:

“At 10:00 a.m. on March 14, FCS middle and high school students will have adjusted schedules to participate in expressions of support for the Parkland, Florida community.

Any student who does not report to school, or who leaves the campus during instructional time, will receive an unexcused absence. School principals will determine any student disciplinary action."

RELATED: Florida prosecutors seeking death penalty in school shooting

Cobb County Schools took a similar stance to Fulton County, saying students couldn't walk out but they would work with students to allow them to have a moment to demonstrate.

"In some areas, there were teachers blocking doors and administrators blocking some entrances. When I walked outside to the field there were about 30 or 40 students and we just all sat down and talked about how we felt about this issue." Tayvia Smith, Lassiter High School junior.

“I'm a gun owner and I think this is a mental health thing. And I just think this is stupid. My son is a senior at Lassiter and he thinks it's stupid too. This just isn't how we solve problems. It's bigger than this and I think we're sending the wrong message when we say it's okay for kids to walk out of school. But to each their own. It's a free country and that's what I love about this country." Anna Wolhert, Lassiter High School parent.

"This may be disruptive for a bit, but it's not as disruptive as a Code Red Alert drills once a month in school. This is about our students being heard. It's not a partisan issue or a political issue. It's about safety." Jessica Zeigler, Cobb County mother of three.

"Schools are not prisons," Sean J. Young, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia was quoted as saying in the release. "Half a century ago, schools tried to prevent students from wearing Freedom Buttons to protest racial segregation until the courts stopped them. History does not look kindly upon those who attempt to silence the voices of the next generation."

The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the principals at Lassiter, Kell, and Sprayberry high schools after receiving reports of faculty blocking the doors:

"If these reports are true, it is shocking and unconscionable that you would be so desperate to suppress the First Amendment rights of your students that you would physically lock them into the building-creating an extremely dangerous fire hazard-just to make a point [and would] smack of unconstitutional intent to suppress the expression of speech you do not like in violation of the First Amendment."

RELATED: Cobb County Schools says students who walk out may face consequences

Other school districts that didn't encourage the walkouts included Gwinnett, Fayette and Hall Counties. Students were told they could face disciplinary action if they chose to disrupt the school day. 

RELATED: Hundreds of students leave school, walk to shooting site

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