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CHS, other schools participate in walkouts

Posted: March 15, 2018 4:04 p.m.
Updated: March 16, 2018 1:00 a.m.
Martin L. Cahn/C-I

CHS Student Body President Ryann Buckelew (left) reads off one of the 17 names of victims of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla., during a special “walkout” program Wednesday morning in the CHS gym. Principal Dan Matthews assisted Ryann with spacing out each name by 17 seconds as other students listened quietly. The program was one of several held around the district in remembrance of the victims.

Most of Camden High School’s (CHS) student body walked out of their second block classrooms at 10 a.m. Wednesday. In a mostly orderly fashion, monitored by Principal Dan Matthews, Assistant Principal Lesley Corner and other administrators, they walked to the CHS gym and filled the bleachers on one side.

In a short program wholly put together by students, they decided -- rather than hold signs or make speeches about guns and gun control -- to remember the 17 students and staff killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., during a school shooting exactly one month earlier on Feb. 14.

After a short delay trying to get, and finally giving up on, a microphone to work, CHS Student Body President Ryann Buckelew greeted her fellow students.

In an email later in the day, Ryann confirmed students chose to remember the Parkland victims.

“In every moment, we as a community must guard against the evil which exists in the world, and pledge to be ever watchful over it,” she wrote.

During the program, Ryann read out the names of each victim, sometimes including a short description of them, each followed with 17 seconds of silence:

Alyssa Alhadeff, student, 14

Martin Duque Anguinao, student, 14

Scott Beigel, geography teacher, 35

Nicholas Dworet, student, 17

Aaron Feis, assistant football coach, 37

Jamie Guttenburg, student, 14

Chris Hixon, athletic director, 49

Luke Hoyer, student, 15

Cara Loughran, student 14

Gina Montallo, student, 14

Joaquin Oliver, student, 17

Alaina Petty, student, 14

Meadow Pollack, student, 18

Helena Ramsey, student, 17

Alex Schachter, student, 14

Carmen Schentrup, student, 16

Peter Wang, student, 15

The shooter also wounded another 17 people at the Florida high school.

After Ryann finished her list, Student Body Secretary Abby Irick recited a prayer, ending the program. Students got up and left. A few tried to linger or get snacks from nearby vending machines; Matthews and Corner had none of it and got them headed back to class.

Corner said for those students who decided not to participate, teachers were still teaching and, therefore, stayed in their classrooms.

Kershaw County School District (KCSD) Superintendent Dr. Frank Morgan wrote in an email that he attended Lugoff-Elgin High School’s (L-EHS) program. He said the district decided to be proactive in thinking carefully about how to let students express themselves.

“We ultimately made the decision to allow students to voluntarily participate within some very specific expectations,” Morgan said. “The event was held inside for safety and security reasons, and normal school behavior standards were expected.”

He said the student-led events, at least the one at L-EHS, was also designed to be a remembrance for the victims in Florida.

“I certainly respect different points of view in our community as to how the walkout should have been handled, but as a school district, we felt that giving students who wanted to participate the opportunity to do so in a supervised, safe, and respectful environment was the right approach. I believe (Wednesday) bore out the wisdom of this approach,” Morgan said.

He said about 500 L-EHS students came to that school’s gym and sat in silence from 10 to 10:17 a.m. and returned to class “without any issue” when asked to do so. Morgan reported other schools where students participated all had “similarly respectful and orderly events.”

“My take-away from this day is that we should feel very proud of our students,” Morgan said. “They handled themselves in a mature and thoughtful manner, whether they participated or not. This just doesn’t happen. I believe our students have learned how to do the right thing from their families, in their churches, from the community as a whole, and in our schools. I would hope that we, as adults, would handle a similar situation in as positive and appropriate way as our young people did.”

Similar scenes as those at CHS and L-EHS played out across the district, according to KCSD Director of Communications Mary Anne Byrd. She said about 58 students at North Central High School participated in its walkout.

“They sat in silence and then read out loud the names of the 17 Stoneman Douglas shooting victims and activities they participated in,” Byrd said.

At North Central Middle School, 37 students participated, according to Byrd.

“Mostly 7th (and) some 8th graders -- they went to the gym and sat quietly and then returned to class at 10:17 a.m.,” she said.

Approximately 350 Camden Middle School students walked out and sat in their gym, Byrd reported. There, they also sat in silence from 10 to 10:17 a.m. to honor the lives of those in school shootings.

“Lugoff-Elgin Middle had 150-200 students walk out to the gym for a student led program,” Byrd said. “Students shared a PowerPoint they prepared, which contained a slide for each of the 17 victims that included pictures and details about their lives. They played a song, ‘We All Bleed the Same.’ A local pastor, who was invited at the students’ request, spoke and led a prayer. Students in attendance were very respectful and the program concluded without incident.”

Byrd also said that an 8th Grade student at Leslie M. Stover Middle School led about 250 students there in a moment of silence. She said no elementary schools reported students participating in any programs connected to the Parkland, Fla., shooting.

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