Education

Lakewood Ranch students to join national walkout on anniversary of Columbine massacre

Gee Basilone (right), spoke in favor of gun reform at the March for Our Lives rally in Sarasota on March 24. She is now joining friends to plan a walkout at Lakewood Ranch High School on Friday.
Gee Basilone (right), spoke in favor of gun reform at the March for Our Lives rally in Sarasota on March 24. She is now joining friends to plan a walkout at Lakewood Ranch High School on Friday. Bradenton Herald

Students at Lakewood Ranch High School are among thousands of students across the nation who plan to stage a walkout on Friday, 19 years after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Gee Basilone, a 16-year-old sophomore, said she and about 20 other students vowed to temporarily leave class on Friday. They will honor the 13 people killed at Columbine in 1999, and the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

"It's just kind of disappointing to see that it's been 19 years since that happened and we're still having to deal with it in today's society," she said.

As Friday approaches, the School District of Manatee County is upholding its recent stance against walkouts or other demonstrations.

The district notified all middle and high school students and parents on April 13 that protests would be considered a distraction as testing begins and the school year comes to an end, district spokesman Mike Barber said in an email on Wednesday.

"The student walkout of classes in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland tragedy was an allowed exception due to the proximity of the incident and its national impact," he wrote.

More than 2,100 walkouts are planned around the country, according to a website for the National School Walkout, a movement started by Connecticut high school student Lane Murdock. Walkouts are also scheduled in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Venice, Gibsonton, Seminole and North Port.

National School Walkout promotes a three-part goal: holding elected officials accountable, promoting solutions to gun violence and engaging students in the political system.

"We can rise up together and declare, with one ringing voice, that the age of national indifference toward the ever-growing death toll is over," its website states. "We can change America forever, all before we reach 20 years of age."

The shooting in Parkland sparked changes in both the public and private sectors. Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill on March 9 that increases the minimum age to buy any firearm from 18 to 21. Dick's Sporting Goods announced in February that it would no longer sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, and it joined Walmart in raising the minimum age for gun sales to 21.

Basilone said she hopes to see the ban on assault-style rifles become a state law. Though she appreciates other security efforts, such as the new buzzer systems and school resource officers at Manatee County schools, she said the long-term solution is gun reform.

"We're trying to promote peace and safety in our schools," she said. "The fact that people are trying to defend their guns over our lives is kind of insane."

Students from across the country walked out of class on March 14, 2018, at 10 a.m. to protest gun violence and demand new legislation. The students left for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 lives lost in the Parkland shooting.

  Comments