When Ashley Castilla was in the 7th grade of Virgil High School, she came out with her classmates calling for tighter gun control laws after 17 students and staff were killed at Parkland High School in Florida. Now a high school student, she is doing it again – this time 19 elementary school students and two teachers were shot Tuesday in Texas.
“It’s devastating. “It hurts,” Ashley said before taking a walk at Hollywood High School on Thursday.
Across the Los Angeles region and across the country, students and teachers left their classes as part of an organized protest after a shooting at a school in Uwald, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman opened fire in the classroom at Rob Elementary School. Students demand actionan initiative that is part of Everytown for security weapons groups said the students organized walks to more than 200 schools Thursday across the country.
Student group was launched after the 2018 shootings in Parkland, Florida, and proponents of gun security policy. That year, students at Margery Stoneman Douglas High School and other schools affected by gun violence led a national movement demanding action on guns. The effort sparked a wave of student activity and stricter gun control laws in some states.
On social media, videos and images recorded the exit of students to Rhode Island, New York, Missouri and California.
In Los Angeles, students demonstrated on campuses from Los Feliz to Woodland Hills.
Ashley, who founded the Students Demand Action Club at her school, said she considered it important to go out on Thursday to honor students killed in Texas and people whose lives were cut short by gun violence, including those killed. May 14 at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
On Thursday, Ashley, with the support of the school administration, gave a speech during which she spoke about the shooting in Texas and named the victims. There was a minute of silence at the school and she told the school that the truancy would take place at 11:30
When the time came, hundreds of other students joined her on campus, some of them holding signs. She told her classmates that they could call elected officials and register to vote. And again she listed the names of the victims in Uwalde as well as in Buffalo.
“Protect children, not weapons,” was written on the table of one of the students. “Correct it before I write to my mother from under the table,” read another.
Los Angeles Unified spokeswoman Shannon Haber said the county knows about the exits and that faculty help students plan advocacy efforts and activities on campus.
“Part of our responsibility as a school district is to educate the next generation of voters and help them find ways to become interested citizens,” Haber said.
In Woodland Hills, students of El Camino Real Charter High School began a walk at 9 am Videos posted online show dozens students chant “Enough” when they walked around campus. In other cities, students held signs and chanted. One student picked up a sheet of paper that read, “How loud should the screams be before you listen” and “I need to worry about my exams, not my life.”
On Thursday afternoon, John Marshall High School students chanted, “No more silence, stop the violence” near a busy intersection in Los Felice.
Some students have been there since 9 a.m., said Namie Nakazova, a freshman who organized a spontaneous walk Thursday morning after learning they were happening across the country. They made signs in class before leaving campus. She said she was not worried about being absent. She is more afraid of what her future in high school might expect.
“Things like that, they happen so suddenly that you really don’t know if you’re going to be next,” she said, standing on the sidewalk with the other students. By 3 p.m., they were preparing to drive home that day as cars continued to signal in support. “You have this resignation: ‘Oh, I could just die at my school.’ ”
Namie was in fifth grade when the shooting took place in Parkland. She said that along with the fear of school shooting she is disappointed that little has changed.
She spent most of the school day on the sidewalk, holding “don’t shoot” and “control your weapons” signs. Local business owners and strangers ordered pizza for 40 or so students and gave them water, she said.
“What does one day of absence mean compared to all these lives we lost in these shootings?” she said.
In the Alhambra, teachers, students and community members came together to protest and call for an end to gun violence. Jose Sanchez, a teacher of civil and public sciences at the Alhambra High School, said the action took place in response to the shooting in Texas.
Since Tuesday, students have asked him why shootings continue at the school and why weapons should not be better regulated. Students, he said, are “as confused and frightened as any adult.”
His wife also teaches at the Alhambra High School, and they had difficult conversations about whether one of them should move to another school when the school was shot, Sanchez said.