More than 400 Somerville High School students left their classes Wednesday to stage a walkout to push for stricter gun laws across the country.
At 8:17 a.m. the first students could be seen filing out of the school’s front doors, many of them holding signs with messages like "gun control now," "democracy now" and "throw them out."
The walkout was set to last all day. The morning demonstration began with the kids sitting silently on a sidewalk in front of the school for 17 minutes -- one minute to honor each person who died in this month’s mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
“There’s been issues with gun violence here,” said 16-year-old student Amalia Hochman. “There was definitely a feeling after the Parkland shooting that it’s going to be here. And there is a lot of fear.”
Hochman was one of about 50 kids who organized the event. Most students echoed the fear that a shooting could happen in their school. School discipline data sent to the state shows since 2012, there have been two cases of discipline in Somerville High School, one involving a rifle and the other a handgun. Both took place during the 2013-2014 school year.
Hochman said so far, students have gotten mixed messages from the school board and Somerville High administrators about whether they’d face any disciplinary action over missing class. But, Hochman added, that won’t stop her and others from having their voices heard.
“We wanted to show that we’re willing to risk our academics because we want to feel safe for ourselves,” she said. “And we want to make sure that our students and peers cross country are safe.”
School headmaster Sebastian LaGambina told WBUR the administration is fully supporting the students. “I just want to say how proud we are of our students -- their civic engagement, their leadership,” he said. But LaGambina would not specify if the kids would face any consequences from their actions.
Walkout organizers say they plan to continue walking out each Wednesday to continue the momentum around the #NeverAgain movement.
Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said as a dad and a bureaucrat, he’s concerned about the missed school time. But he added, “I admire them for their courage and their leadership and willingness to speak up and disrupt and own the necessary work and advocacy to change behavior and change the culture in this country.”
Students at dozens of schools plan to participate in a national school walkout on March 14.