Andrew Jackson High School students remember Florida victims, demand for change

LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - Students at Andrew Jackson High School in Lancaster County participated in the Enough: National School Walkout event to remember the victims of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting.

At 10 a.m. on March 14, 2018, exactly one month after the school shooting in Florida, students walked out of class, sat in the hallway and remained silent as the instructor of ROTC read the names and bios of the 17 victims over the PA system.

"They were living their life, they were excited and they were going to college," Junior AJHS student Chloe Mungo said. "Then their parents didn't see this coming, it just happened and now their lives are over."

"It's amazing, I'm proud on a daily basis about what goes on in this school, but when you looked down the hallway and see the students really taking the time to reflect, it was heartwarming," ROTC Instructor John Verdugo said.

While school leaders say the focus of this exercise was to memorialize the victims in the Florida shooting one month after their deaths, some students say it was also a call for lawmakers to make a change to ensure schools are more secure.

"I think it's important that we as students demand safety, it's a right and that's why I took part in it," Mungo said. " Stricter laws, ban on assault weapons and stronger background checks, I think that needs to happen."

Reverend Ricky Cope of Trinity Baptist Church in Indian Land has been studying mass shootings and other traumatic situations his youth worshippers have gone through for more than 20 years. He says gun control is not the answer.

"There are 300 million guns on the streets, you are not going to change that," Reverend Cope said. "It's an impossible task."

Instead, he came up with a 5-point-plan to keep schools safe. He named it 'Aaron's Initiative' in honor of slain Marjory Douglas Stoneman Football Coach Aaron Feis.

"He said 'not on my watch' and he used his body to shield all of those kids," Cope said.

Cope uses the letters in Aaron's name to stand for each point of his school safety plan:

A: Arming School
A: Awareness Training
R: Resource Funding
O: Onsite Metal Detectors
N: National Vow

Cope says the issue of mass shootings comes from a cultural change, in which he says cannot be fixed immediately. Instead, he believes 'Aaron's Initiative' can offer security to schools faster. He says arming schools is the number one step.

"Arming officers, teachers or personnel. I believe it should be a combination of both, teachers should have the choice, but definitely at the door with officers," Cope said.

He says students need to be given a more direct plan on what they should do if a shooter comes to their school. Cope say there are several ways to fund Aaron's Initiative, the first is prioritizing safety.

"We all want the great football stadiums, we all want that look at our schools, but we have to have our kids home at the end of the day," Cope said.

He suggests a 5 cent on the dollar gas tax hike as another option to generate revenue.

"That is a very minimal fee to look at, it brings in $19 million a day in America, $7 billion in a year," Cope said.

His last step of Aaron's Initiative would require the nation to make a vow to protect its students and schools.

"We're going to do everything possible to come up with a real solution and here's the keyword: immediately," Cope said.

Cope was invited to speak about his plan at Governor Henry McMaster's School Safety Summit at the beginning of the month. He says ther are plans for another meeting with the Governor and a trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney, Senator Tim Scott and Senator Lindsey Graham.

For more information about Aaron's Initiative, click here.

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