Students gathered at Borough Hall in Brooklyn on Wednesday as part of a nationwide protest against gun violence. Credit: Annie Tritt for The New York Times
Here are portions of the NYTIMES story on the national walkout by high school students. The story was written By ALAN BLINDER and JULIE TURKEWITZ. Reporting was contributed by Julie Bosman, Sydney Ember, Anemona Hartocollis, Sean Keenan, Nick Madigan, Rick Rojas, Stephanie Saul, Nate Schweber and Kate Taylor.
In New York and elsewhere, students walked far and wide.
The first protests showed that the day’s demonstrations would unfold in different ways from city to city. In some cities, demonstrators chanted and held signs. At other schools, students stood in silence. In Atlanta, some students took a knee.
Thousands of students around New York, many backed by permission slips from their parents, walked out of their schools and converged on central locations — Columbus Circle, Battery Park, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Lincoln Center.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, stretched out on the sidewalk as part of a “lie-in” with students in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the former home of the Occupy Wall Street protests. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the local union, joined them.
More than a thousand students walked out of the Martin Luther King Jr. campus, which has a number of schools on its premises, behind Lincoln Center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
Jaha Doyley, 17, said she feared for her own life, and that of her 9-year-old sister. “It wasn’t a hard decision,” Jaha said. “I’m really scared and worried.”
Hundreds of students sat in the middle of West 62nd street for several minutes before the crowd rose to their feet and shouted, “No more violence.” A cry of “Trump Tower!” sent dozens of protesters marching toward the Trump International Hotel and Tower across Broadway. Onlookers gave them fist-bumps.
Uptown, students from the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, a high school of some 1,600 students in East Harlem, streamed onto Pleasant Avenue, holding signs reading “Am I next?” and “How many children have to die?”
They chanted “Enough is enough!” and “Hey, hey, N.R.A., how many kids have you killed today?”
In Washington, students gathered outside the White House and on Capitol Hill, where they were joined by lawmakers including Chuck Schumer of New York and Nancy Pelosi of California, the Senate and House Democratic leaders.
Hours earlier, in London, about 300 students and staff members of the American School walked out and gathered in silence on the school’s sports field.
“We’re very lucky,” said Cameron Lynch, a 17-year-old student who moved to London from Virginia six months ago. “My old school in Virginia sent an email saying that any teachers who would take part in the walkout would be fired.”
Many are protesting in places haunted by violence.
Some of the day’s most poignant demonstrations are happening at schools whose names are now synonymous with shootings.
Watched by a phalanx of reporters, camera operators and supporters at campus’s edge, hundreds of students crowded onto the football field at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shortly after 10 a.m.
“We’re with you,” a woman shouted from the sidewalk. Others took up the chant.
The event seemed suffused with sadness, given that the school was the site of the Feb. 14 shootings that have galvanized the new movement for more gun restrictions. Notes of condolence, fading flowers and stuffed toys, damp from recent rain, still lie on the grass outside the school and affixed to metal fences.
The walkout was permitted by the school, but several students said they were warned that they would not be permitted back onto the campus for they day if they left school grounds. Despite the warning, a couple hundred students marched to nearby Pine Trails Park, where they held another demonstration.
“It’s kind of unfair for us to have to go to school today, a month after this happened,” Nicolle Montgomerie, 17, a junior, said as she walked toward the park. “We need more than just 17 minutes.”
An email from the school soon went out telling students they would indeed be allowed to return.
In Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, hundreds of students filed out of Newtown High School just moments before 10 a.m. and gathered in a parking lot near the football field. Some held posters. The district’s interim superintendent, Lorrie Rodrigue, said this month that school officials had “worked closely with student leaders to create a time for respectful student expression,” according to school board minutes. Dr. Rodrigue said she viewed the protests as an extension of social studies classes.
In Colorado, students at Columbine High School were expected to leave their classrooms and begin 30 seconds of silence: 17 for the dead in Parkland and 13 for the dead on their own campus in the 1999 shooting that seemed to signify the beginning of a generation of school attacks. Students from two nearby high schools were also expected to walk out in solidarity. Sam Craig, 15, a lead organizer and a student at one of the area’s high schools, said he was pushed to act after watching the videos coming out of Parkland.
“We saw people in classrooms just like ours, wearing clothes just like ours, they looked like they could have been any one of us at any of our schools,” he said. “And seeing them lying in pools of blood was really powerful for us.”
Not all districts are treating walkouts the same way.
Some school districts have openly accommodated the protests. But others have warned that they will discipline students who participated by marking them as absent or even suspending them.
“We cannot condone students leaving classes during the instructional day to participate in this activity,” said Barbara P. Canavan, the schools superintendent in Harford County, Md., who said that the protest “presents, paradoxically, a threat to student safety, as word of the walkout has been widely disseminated and students who go outside could become more vulnerable.”
Instead, Ms. Canavan said, her district would offer “a learning module that will provide students with an opportunity to share their feelings about recent events across the nation and will allow them to speak about solutions in a structured way.”
Still, students openly defied school districts that had warned them not to participate. In Cobb County, Ga., near Atlanta, the threat of punishment did not keep scores of Walton High School students from standing in silence on the football field for 170 seconds, honoring the 17 victims in Parkland.
Some students said that school officials backed away from the threat of punishment after the protests concluded.
A school district spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday. But in a previous statement, the district said it did “not support or endorse walkouts/protests that cause interruption to normal school operations,” and it warned that students “may be subject to consequences.”
Noelle Ellerson Ng, associate executive director for policy and advocacy for AASA, the association of the nation’s superintendents, said that schools had to balance the First Amendment rights of students with their other responsibilities, including safety.
One planned demonstration at Broughton Magnet High School in Raleigh, N.C., was abruptly canceled when the principal learned of a threat. “The principal was made aware from another student that somebody had posted a threat on Snapchat directed toward the walkout,” Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman for the school system in Wake County, said on Wednesday.
Ms. Luten said the principal had asked students to return to class and that they had complied. Law enforcement officials were investigating.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered training to students planning to participate in the walkouts, said that districts can discipline students under attendance guidelines, but cannot “discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.” Many colleges, meanwhile, have said that high school students disciplined for protesting will not have it counted against them when they apply for admission.
While many schools cited safety as a reason to discourage protests, politics plainly intruded in some regions.
Officials in Lafayette Parish, La., initially said that students could participate in the walkout, believing that it would honor the Florida victims, but when it became clear there was a political undercurrent, a wave of outrage from the public led the school board to adopt a new plan: a minute of silence. Jeremy Hidalgo, the school board’s vice president, said that parents were frustrated by plans to use 17 minutes of class time for anything beyond the traditional curriculum and that they “were just disgusted and disappointed that we were going to participate in a national walkout that was geared around gun control.”
Dozens of students walked out anyway.