Students at South Broward High School walked out en masse Friday morning, saying they refused to attend class to force lawmakers to confront calls for gun control after 17 students and teachers were killed at nearby Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
About 95 students at the Hollywood school have participated sporadically in the protest, either chanting or holding handmade signs near an exit gate near the high school, said Isaac Adelson, 14.
Adelson, a ninth-grader and member of the school’s wrestling team, said the teens were inspired by the vocal students at Douglas High, 30 miles to its northwest, who have demanded action both in viral social media posts and through the national media.
“We just want some time of reform. We want some attention,” Adelson said. While many of the students say they feel safe at South Broward – the school has added security guards and three police cars are positioned near the protest – they feel compelled to use this platform in hopes to inspire change, he said.
“Many of us have friends who passed away (at Douglas High),” he said. “It could have happened to us. … We just want to do as much as we can.”
Past attempts at changing gun laws have fallen short in Congress. President Trump is expected to meet with Douglas parents this weekend during a trip to Mar-A-Lago, his winter White House in Palm Beach County.
Melissa Walker, a Coral Springs resident and the PTO president of Meadowbrook Elementary School west of Fort Lauderdale, said from outside Douglas High School on Friday that she recalls briefly interacting with Nikolas Cruz at a Dollar Store and movie theater where he worked.
She only realized the significance of those encounters when his picture flashed on news networks on televisions throughout the nation.
“I just saw him (a month ago) when I took my kids to see ‘Jumanji,’ ” she said. “He seemed strange. But I thought nothing of it.”
The tragedy of a mass shooting that left 17 dead at Douglas High didn’t end when Cruz was apprehended, Walker said. The fears lingers, even now.
At Meadowbrook Elementary, Walker’s daughter, Athena, was in class Thursday when a Code Yellow alert — one where students must stay in their classrooms with their teachers — was issued without detail.
“Everybody was yelling,” Athena, a fourth-grader, said.
Her mother added, “It was far from normal. People were frantic, calling family. It was the furthest thing from a normal day at Broward County schools.
“We as parents need to demand change. There’s nothing we can do to reassure our children that this can’t happen to them. We shouldn’t have to have that conversation.”