Students across the country walked out of their classrooms Wednesday in a show of support for stronger gun-control legislation after the school shooting in Florida last month.
But not in Atascadero, Calif.
Atascadero High School was locked down Wednesday after police were notified of a student’s social-media threat to shoot up the school, Sgt. Caleb Davis of the Atascadero police said.
“Im shooting up the school tomorrow during the walkout. Are you? Im going to enjoy every scream and every tear. Are you?” the student wrote on Instagram.
“We are NOT going to stop. We are NOT going to give up. We will NOT stop till every living thing on the campus is dead,” the student wrote.
Police were made aware of the student’s threat about 8 a.m. Wednesday, police said. A school resource officer identified the student and officers arrived at the student’s home about 8:10 a.m. Police confirmed that the student was acting alone before arresting the student, who is being held at San Luis Obispo Juvenile Services Center.
Administrators at Atascadero Unified School District issued a lockdown for 40 minutes while police investigated the threat. But those 40 minutes coincided with when the nationally organized walkouts were set to begin — at 10 a.m. in each time zone. Most walkouts lasted until 10:17, symbolizing the 17 people killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Atascadero High School was asked to shelter in place about 9:40 a.m.
“The school district intended to let the kids do it, but unfortunately other things took precedent,” Davis said. “Overall, the safety of the kids was more important at the time.”
Threats against the nation’s schools have increased since the Florida shooting. The Educators School Safety Network said it recorded about 50 threats a day in the days after the Florida shooting on Feb. 14, and copycat threats on Snapchat, Instagram and other social networks have spread ominous messages, although most have appeared to be hoaxes.
Atascadero High School was one of a handful of schools forced to lock down Wednesday, even as students across the country were rallying for safer schools. San Leandro High School in San Leandro, Calif., was locked down after administrators notified police about 9:30 a.m. of a threat written on the wall of a bathroom stall, which said a shooting would occur at the school on Thursday, SFGate reported.
“I’m shooting the school tommorow [sic] at 1 I’m sick of this s*** Better not come F*** this place,” the message read, according to a photo circulating on social media.
San Leandro students took to Twitter to express their solidarity with the walkouts.
“We wanted our voices to be heard for the nation,” one student tweeted. “Such irony is sad.”
Some schools did not accommodate the walkouts. While Mount Diablo High School in Concord, Calif., honored the Parkland victims about 10 a.m. in a loudspeaker announcement, the student government had decided not to participate in a walkout, principal Lorne Barbosa told the Mercury News. As a result, students broke through a gate to leave campus Wednesday and protest gun violence. They walked down a nearby street around 10:15 a.m., shouting “Enough is enough” before they were escorted back to campus by administrators.
And at North Oldham County High School in Goshen, Ky., more than 100 students were punished for walking out of school toward a soccer field on campus and reading the names of school shooting victims from Kentucky and Florida, the Courier-Journal reported. The students had been warned earlier in the week that they would be given detention if they walked out.
“The punishment was for defying authority, not for participating,” Lori McDowell, director of communications for Oldham County Schools, told the Courier-Journal.
Elsewhere in the country, from Alaska to Florida, students at thousands of schools across the country walked out in solidarity with the survivors of the Florida shooting, who are planning a march on Washington on March 24. The march is expected to draw hundreds of thousands of students to the nation’s capitol, as reported by The Washington Post’s Joe Heim, Marissa J. Lang and Susan Svrluga:
Supporters say the protests represent a realization of power and influence by young people raised on social media who have come of age in an era of never-ending wars, highly publicized mass shootings and virulent national politics.
Many of the participants said the focus on gun control was not an expression of party preference. What they are demanding from Republicans and Democrats alike is action on an issue they believe has been shuffled aside by lawmakers for too long. In an election year, with every member of the House and a third of the Senate running for office, the students are determined to make an impact.
“We want our Congress to know that some of us will be old enough to vote in the midterm elections, and the rest of us are going to be able to vote in 2020 or 2022, and they’re going to lose their job if they don’t do what we want to keep us safe,” said Fatima Younis, a student organizer with Women’s March Youth Empower, one of the lead coordinators of Wednesday’s walkouts. The group is demanding lawmakers increase the minimum age for people to purchase weapons, ban assault-style weapons and demilitarize police forces.