La PORTE — More than 25 students walked out of class and off campus Friday to call attention to school violence, marching about a mile from La Porte High School to the La Porte County Courthouse.
Carrying signs and holding up two fingers in gestures of peace, the students walked out about 10:15 a.m. and spent the rest of the day on a sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
“Enough is enough,” junior Delaney Bluhm shouted to her colleagues over the noise of trucks rumbling past on Lincoln Way. “We stay silent no more.”
Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado where 12 students and a teacher were killed.
The walkout also follows a shorter walkout, restricted to school grounds, in March in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 were killed.
Bluhm said students in the walkout had various opinions about gun control and school safety, but everyone wanted to raise awareness about gun violence and will continue to make their voices heard.
“We will not rest until change comes,” she said.
Becca Eyrick, a junior, and Ava Sinclair, a freshman, also addressed the students.
Principal Ben Tonagel said a core group of students had respectfully communicated their intention to walk off campus and had worked with the administration to ensure proper procedures were followed.
Student safety was a primary concern.
“A lot can happen between here and there,” he said.
Students and parents alike were reminded this week of the district’s policy on attendance, he said.
Those students whose parents verified their absence from school and who signed out as required would not face consequences, he said, although they are responsible for making up any missed work.
Tonagel said he respects the free-speech rights of all students and greatly appreciated the civility of those who came to him, but he hopes they consider other avenues for expressing themselves besides walking out of class.
“A classroom ought to be a place to have vigorous discussions about our democracy and a space for critical thinking where we can talk about these topics with civility,” he said.
The principal also said he was concerned about any precedence the walkout might set.
“These things can be disruptive,” he said. “This is ISTEP week.”