Thousands of CMS students walk out of class to tackle gun violence

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - About 1,500 Independence High School students walked out of class Wednesday morning to bring attention to gun violence at schools and to remember the 17 people who died Feb. 14 in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.

Students walked out for 17 minutes, each minute for the victims who died. They hope it will make a difference.

"We want to stop these shootings because they have been happening for many years," Independence High School student Marion Teshome said.

Students placed a yellow rose in front of the names of the people who died in the Florida shooting. They say they will never forget.

"I almost d ropped tears. I felt something in my heart each time I placed a rose down for each student. It means a lot," Independence High School student Daryl Bodrick Jr. said.

The walkout was peaceful and ended with a challenge to lawmakers to investigate why there have been so many school shootings.

"All of our children are dying in schools and this is the future of America. I think it would be really nice if congress can get together and come up with a non-partisan solution," Independence High School student Sebastian Bowen said.

Students want mental health reform and stronger gun laws to help keep them safe while at school.

"We need to regulate how and who can get a gun. Not what type of gun you get," Bowen said.

After the walkout students were able to register to vote. Students who are 16 years old could register and when they turn 18 they will get a voter registration card in the mail.  The goal was to register 400 students.

Several Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) participated in this event. The district says there were not any issues from the walkouts and says it will continue to encourage students to use their voice for positive change. Students are ready to be at peace while at school.

"I want to see a better day. Where I can actually come to school and not being worried that this alarm might go off and this alarm might go off because somebody wants to come in and kill," Whitewater Middle School student Tanijah Harris said.

Some students didn't participate in the walkouts for various reasons. Independence High School students want to encourage those who didn't join this assignment to think again.  Students say you never know when and where gun violence will happen. They say the students in Florida didn't.

"That's what we are trying to show. That it does have to deal with you. That can happen to anybody. They weren't expecting to wake up that morning and end up in that situation," Bodrick said.

Students say this is their time to make a difference and be effective.

They say they don't want to leave students behind in this cause.

"It encourages students to know that their voice matters. That they matter in society," Teshome said.

Independence High School Principal David Legrand says he was impressed with what the students did Wednesday. He says this type of student engagement and advocacy may be the beginning at his school.

"We're open to listening to their concerns and causes and then work with them to provide opportunity to express their concern without a disruption," the principal said.

CMS says as long as students were peaceful and organized, students would not be punished.

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