A group of about 50 Oswego High School students walked out of their school at about 12:30 p.m. on Friday, April 20.
The students gathered near the flagpole at the school's main entrance as a show of support for increased gun control and safety in schools.
The walkout was held in conjunction with hundreds across the nation to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School where 12 students and one teacher were killed and 24 were wounded. The walkout also followed a series of nationwide walkouts in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
"My mom asked me why I walked out. I said, 'To stop this from happening again.' She said that she didn't think that would change anything," OHS junior Mariah Trevino said. "Instead of believing that, we have to ask ourselves, 'How can we prove her wrong?'."
Trevino and other student speakers took turns standing in the center of the group of students, some holding signs which read: "If we have to standardized test, so should gun owners," and "Congress, you are not ballot-proof."
Many students held signs from the Everytown organizatio, and were also wearing orange, a color chosen to honor Chicago student Hadiya Pendleton who was shot and killed in 2013.
"Do not let them silence you, do not let the school threats scare you," Trevino said. "This is affecting us, happening to us, and that's why we're protesting in the first place...use your life to save countless more."
"This isn't a party issue, it shouldn't be liberals and conservatives or anything like that...we don't want our children to go to school and be afraid that they're not going to come back. We don't want our parents to have to send their kids on the bus and not know if they'll see them again alive," sophomore Lars Frye said.
Frye, wearing an orange shirt, had a small price tag pinned to her shirt, to represent the three-cent value of each Illinois student's life, relative to the amount of donations that state lawmakers receive from the National Rifle Association.
"I think that is ridiculous, I think all of our lives are absolutely priceless. Every one of us has a right to education, a right to be here, and not be afraid. Fear has no place in schools," she said. "It is not about party, it is about the lives of our children, our students, of our future. We are the future, we can do something about it."
While it was impossible to tell if the cars that honked while driving past the school on Route 71 were doing so in support or disagreement, students cheered regardless, drowning out the jeers from a passing car with a chant led by sophomore Dekasia Judon: "Tell me what democracy looks like? This is what democracy looks like."
Similar to the memorial held by OHS students in March for the students and faculty of Stoneman Douglas, students shouted, "Never again," after the names of the students and teacher who died in the Columbine shooting were read aloud. Students also held a moment of silence for
At the conclusion of the walkout, OHS alumnus T.J. Clark, who attended as an advisor for the school's Youth and Government Club, encouraged students to vote in the upcoming midterm election and in the future.
Clark referred to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, which found that millenials will soon become the largest voting block in the United States, having outnumbered baby boomers and older generations in the most recent election.
"That's not going to mean anything if you don't vote. That's not going to mean anything if you don't get your friends to vote. That's not going to mean anything if you don't get out and vote," Clark said. "Don't let anybody ever tell you that this doesn't matter. Don't ever believe that. People don't take you seriously, and then they tell you you can't, and then you know you are taken seriously."
The walkout was closely monitored by administrators and security personnel from OHS.
SD308 Director of Communications and Public Relations Theresa Komitas declined to comment, instead referring to a statement issued earlier in the week, which said that any students who participated in the walkouts would face discipline, similar to any other day of school.