(This story was updated at 12:45 p.m. with an official count of the participants).
Roughly 800 South Lakes High School students joined their peers from all over the country for a scheduled 17-minute National School Walkout to End Gun Violence at 10 a.m. today (March 14).
Chanting phrases like “Enough is enough,” “We want change,” and “No more silence, end gun violence,” students gathered in the school’s football stadium for the rally. SLHS student Dora Ahearn-wood repeated the names of the 17 victims in the Parkland shooting in a call-and-response pattern.
A moment of silence followed.
The impetus behind the rally was especially real following a lockdown at SLHS and two other Reston public schools on Friday. Local police determined a report about a student with a gun was false.
“The lockdown was a false alarm and everyone was safe. But we should not have to live in a place where we have to see our friends texting and calling their family, terrified for their lives. We should not have to go to school and experience a lockdown because the presence of an active-shooter on campus is a real possibility. We should not have to live in a country where teenagers can have access to weapons of war,” said SLHS student Sophia Liao.
Others like Zach Schonfeld encouraged students to join survivors of the Parkland shooting in the District for the March for Our Lives. Schonfeld also encouraged students to take their grievances to the ballot box by registering to vote, volunteering for a campaign, call Congressional representatives to push for gun control and raise their voices to declare “enough is enough.”
“Whatever you do, don’t sit out on the sidelines and merely add Parkland to the tragic list that has senselessly killed so many. Next time, it could be us,” he said.
Walkout participants were marked for “cutting class” during the walkout, which fell during the third period class, according to SLHS principal Kim Retzer.
“Like any other school day, our teachers will prepare various learning activities to engage students and we expect our students to participate in their learning process. Should students leave class, teachers will continue with their instruction to all students who remain in the classroom,” Retzer wrote in a statement.
Students at other area schools like Langston Hughes Middle School in Reston and Floris Elementary School in Herndon also participated in similar walkouts.
Footage by ABC News linked below mistakenly indicated SLHS students walked off of school grounds. The footage is not from SLHS.
Students at South Lakes High School in Reston, Virginia walk out of their classrooms to protest for stricter gun laws as part of #NationalWalkoutDay. https://t.co/Yf340llQUp pic.twitter.com/gqMc7ZcaQz
— Good Morning America (@GMA) March 14, 2018
Pushed by the mass shooting at Florida high school this year, students at South Lakes High School will stage a walkout on Wednesday at 10 a.m., joining more than 2,200 schools nationwide as part of the #Enough National School Walkout to End Gun Violence.
For organizers, the need for the walkout – the second at the high school following the Florida shooting – came to life on Friday when three Reston schools were under a lockdown after students reported they saw another student with a gun. Police determined the report was false.
Students like Sophia Liao, Zachary Schonfeld and Dora Ahearn-Wood said they want legislators to go beyond tweeting thoughts and prayers by passing legislation to prevent gun violence.
“We should feel safe in our schools, and not have to worry if we are next. Just last Friday, we got lucky. The lockdown was quickly found to be a false alarm through the diligent work of school administration and police. But we should not have to live in a place where we have to see our friends texting and calling their families, terrified for their lives. This is not normal, and it needs to change,” Liao said.
The walkout will be the second for South Lakes High School students. Last month, more than 200 students stepped out of class in the middle of the day to remember victims of the Parkland shooting.
On Wednesday, students plan to stand outside for 17 minutes to honor each victim of the shooting. The walkout will also include remarks and chants from student organizers, according to a release by the South Lakes Young Democrats club.
Although the club is organizing the walkout, organizers said participants are from varying political backgrounds and the walkout is a school-wide initiative. Students also plan to initiate a “call to action” by encouraging participants to vote, call their elected representatives and become involved in political discourse.
“We might not all be experts on gun policy, but we do know that the current status quo is not working,” organizers said.
South Lakes High School is emphasizing its security and protest policies after a Florida high school shooting left 17 students and faculty dead.
Kim Retzer, the school’s principal, said the last several days have been “intense as the conversations and actions around school violence have taken place.” Last week, more than 350 students walked out of the school and stood outside midday for 17 minutes.
In response to mixed reactions about the walkout, Retzer said that Fairfax County Public Schools respect students’ rights to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions, so long as the form of expression is “done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.”
“Students participating in marches or walkouts are expected to participate in class and to respond to administrative questions and directives in the same way as all other students,” she added.
School policies also encourage teachers to remain in class with students who do not participate in walkouts. Staff can participate during “non-work time,” she said.
The school regularly assesses its safety protocols, staff indicated. Retzer described Dave Bonner, a school resource officer stationed at SLHS as “pro-active” and “experienced.” Bonner routinely collaborates with the resource officer at the adjacent Hughes Middle School.
The school installed interior and exterior video surveillance several years ago and is in the process of upgrading older equipment.
Retzer expressed support for the feedback and support received by the school in the past week.
“I know I have hugged my child a little tighter in recent days,” she said.
— Mary Supley Foxworth (@msfmary) August 13, 2017
A Herndon-area resident is organizing a “vigil for peace” to be held tonight after the weekend’s violent protests in Charlottesville.
According to a post on The Action Network website, Suzanne Nordfelt says interested individuals can meet at her home on Treadwell Lane at 7 p.m. for the event.
We are standing in solidarity with Charlottesville. Join us. Come put some positive energy in the universe and hold each other up. Please bring a candle (if you have one) and your walking shoes in the event we decide to parade down Reston Parkway. Wearing white is a plus but completely optional. Please share far and wide. We will meet in my cul-de-sac so there is lots of parking.
Over the weekend in Reston, a small “Stand With Charlottesville” gathering (pictured at top) took place Saturday night. A protest in DC on Sunday drew thousands.
Clashes between far-right “Unite The Right” protesters and counterprotesters in Charlottesville on Saturday afternoon resulted in a number of violent altercations. The showdown turned tragic when an alleged white supremacist plowed a car into a crowd, killing one and injuring nearly 20 more. Additionally, a Virginia State Police helicopter responding to the scene crashed, resulting in the deaths of two troopers.
Local, state and national leaders have urged a stop to the hate in the aftermath of the events.
We must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are ALL AMERICANS FIRST. pic.twitter.com/FesMiQSKKn
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) August 12, 2017
At every level, elected officials in America must denounce white supremacy, Nazism & any rhetoric that empowers those who seek to divide us.
— Terry McAuliffe (@GovernorVA) August 13, 2017
Today's terrorist attack demands @GOPoversight attention. Must investigate troubling rise of white nationalist, KKK & neo-Nazi acts of hate.
— Gerry Connolly (@GerryConnolly) August 12, 2017
Yesterday was a very troubling day for our Commonwealth. Let us come together to mourn the victims, while we reject hate and discrimination.
— Jeff McKay (@JeffreyCMcKay) August 13, 2017