NJ teens walk out of schools to mark Florida shooting
EAST BRUNSWICK — Students in several New Jersey schools walked out of class on Wednesday to quietly commemorate the one week anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Several schools in Monmouth and Ocean Counties, were expected to walk at noon, according to an Asbury Park Press report.
Live video on the newspaper's Facebook page showed students walking out of Middletown South and sitting silently outside the school for 17 minutes in honor of the seventeen victims of the shooting. The names of the victims were also read aloud before students returned to class.
Superintendent William George told the newspaper students would not be punished for taking part in the walkout.
An estimated 500 students at Southern Regional High School and the middle school in Stafford Township also walked out of class, according to the newspaper. The names of the victims were read to as the song "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen was performed. A brief biography of each student was also read. Some students cried during the event.
Stafford Police praised the Southern Regional students for their event. "We salute the students in their efforts to stimulate discussion and change in an effort to stop the senseless violence that occurs far too often in our country," they wrote on their Facebook page.
The walkouts may be part of a group called Student Walkout Against Gun Violence, which called for a noon walkout at schools across the country.
One district not participating is East Brunswick, according to superintendent Dr. Victor Valeski, who said that the administration is talking to students about participating in other planned events on March 14 at individual schools and on March 24 in Washington, D.C., and in New Jersey.
"I think the student leaders at our secondary schools understand that our district level administrators, including me, are supportive of them having a voice but we want to do it and promote it in a structured way that is safe for our students and effective for them," Valeski said.
The superintendent said he is proud of the way students have reacted to the shooting with their increased activism.
The East Brunswick Board of Education voted the day after the shooting to add armed police officers to each school's security detail.
"I can tell you our kids are understandably outraged," board president Todd Simmons said. "They have friends in Parkland. I've had community members and staff come up to me and acknowledge how unpleasant a decision this was but thank us because they feel just a little safer now."