San Antonio Students Walkout On Anniversary Of Columbine

Apr 20, 2018

Hundreds of students at several different San Antonio schools called for an end to gun violence Friday by participating in walkouts and on-campus events.

For many who participated, ending gun violence means tightening gun control.

Student demonstrations were planned in cities across the country to mark the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. It was the third day of national protests since the Parkland shooting in February left 17 people dead.

Churchill High School

Chase Jacobson, 18, said he thinks the continued activism two months after the Parkland shooting is making a difference.

“We had a town hall with Congressman Lloyd Doggett, and one of the things he said is one of the reasons the NRA (National Rifle Association) is so powerful is because they are so consistent,” Jacobson said. “And so, for us, a lot of our power comes in our persistence.”  

Jacobson and more than 100 of his classmates walked out silently at Churchill High School in North East Independent School District.

They wore orange pins and carried signs, lining up near the sidewalk on the edge of campus.

Walkout organizer Sophia Mendez, 16, said she was surprised to see such a large turnout.

Sophia Mendez, 16, was one of the lead organizers of the Churchill High School walkout.
Credit Camille Phillips | Texas Public Radio

“I go to a more conservative school, and we have actually some counter protesters,” said Sophia, who said she was motivated to take action after the Parkland shooting. “I am a student and I realize that I’m at high risk every day, and so are my classmates, my brother, and I never want to go through the same thing that Parkland and so many others have gone through again.”

School officials barred media from campus, but Sophia said about 20 students left class carrying flags to protest the walkout.

“I think it’s because they think that gun control means automatic gun ban, but that’s not the case, which is why we’re out here,” she said. “We want to educate them and change their minds on the definition of gun control.”

She said she is demonstrating in support of longer waiting periods for gun purchases, universal background checks and psychological evaluations.

She and her classmates stayed mostly silent to avoid being punished for causing a disruption. They returned to class when their principal told them 30 minutes had passed.

KIPP University Prep

KIPP charter school students hold up signs to remember the 12 students and 1 teacher who died in Columbine in 1999.
Credit Jerry Quijano | Texas Public Radio

At KIPP University Prep High School, students held a remembrance for gun violence victims, specifically those killed at Columbine High School in 1999.

The students observed 13 minutes of silence — one minute for each victim — and held signs honoring their memories.

KIPP San Antonio students hold up signs with the names of the Columbine victims Friday.
Credit Jerry Quijano | Texas Public Radio

Abby Morton-Garland, co-school leader, was a high school senior in 1999 and never expected that her students would have to deal with school shootings.

“I remember thinking, ‘This is only a one-off thing. This was just two random kids, this is never going to happen again. And then I became a teacher and watched it happen again, and again, and again,” Morton-Garland said.

She remembers feeling helpless after hearing about Columbine, but Friday she said she only felt pride as she watched her students stand up for themselves.

“This is a generation that does not feel helpless. They feel empowered, they feel ready to talk, they feel ready to act, and I’m taking their cues and I’m standing behind them,” Morton-Garland said.

North East, Northside and San Antonio ISD all warned students they would receive unexcused absences for walking out. At North East that came with an automatic 20 percent off any class work they missed.

Students from at least two North East high schools and four Northside high schools organized walkouts. SAISD organized events on campus where there was interest, including a panel discussion at Advanced Learning Academy, to encourage students to not walk out.

Camille Phillips and Jerry Quijano can be reached @cmpcamille and @jerryquijano