About 75 middle school and high school students at Ocracoke School left their classrooms and gathered in the gymnasium this morning to demonstrate against gun violence, as part of a nationwide student-led walkout.
Ocracoke School was one of several schools along the state's coast where students participated in today's walkout, which was organized by the Women's March Youth EMPOWER movement to demand action on gun violence in schools. Across the nation, thousands of students left their classrooms at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one for each of the students killed in last month's shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl.
During the walkout at Ocracoke School, several students read the names of the victims before observing a moment of silence, said principal Leslie Cole. Many students carried signs that read anti-gun violence messages, such as "Stop the Violence" and "Schools Are for Learning, Not for Lock Downs," she said. As a former civics teacher, she's pleased to see student involvement in the democratic process, Cole said.
"They are going to be voting in just a few years," Cole said. "They definitely have their positions. Having their voice heard is important."
Maclain Kalna, 17, is an 11th grade student who attended today's walkout. Like many students across the country who've become accustomed to school shootings in the news, active shooter drills and local gun and bomb threats, school sometimes feels like a scary place, Kalna said. Just last month, he was worried about going to school after someone made threats targeting Hyde County and the surrounding area on social media, Kalna said.
"We live on an island, we're isolated. I have six kids in my graduating class. It's as rural as rural gets," he said." And seeing that some of the kids here - and I was even frightened to come to school that day -- it just shows you that it's not acceptable. Something needs to happen."
He supports reinstating the former ban on assault weapons and raising the legal age for buying guns, Kalna said.
"At 18, yes you are still technically an adult, but you're still in the developmental stage, everyone is," he said. "And it's just too early to own a fireman that can potentially destroy your life and the people around you."
About 10-15 Ocracoke School students plan to travel to Washington D.C. to join thousands of others demanding legislative action on gun violence later this month, as part of the national March for Our Lives rally, Kalna said. The school's Beta Club is organizing the trip to the national rally, where students plan to wear their school colors, said Kalna, the club's co-president.
"So, we can take pictures and show our community that we actually did something," Kalna said. "We didn't just sit back, comment on Facebook. We actually went to the capital and took action."