© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbus Students Mark Columbine Anniversary With Gun Control Walkout

Nick Evans
Students marching at Upper Arlington High School on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

More than 200 students left class at 10 a.m. on Friday and marched around the track at Upper Arlington HighSschool, as part of a national walkout demanding gun policy changes. 

At the protest, Dylan Carlson-Sirvent and other organizers wore red shirts that say Students Demand Action.

“We know the story line—it's thoughts and prayers, people are mourning," Carlson-Sirvent says. "People call for change and then nothing happens.  And I’m so surprised that even almost a month and a half after there are this many people that are still engaged.”

Friday's walkout is the third in a series of demonstrations organized by student activists throughout the country.  This most recent walkout comes on the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

With each successive protest, the response from their fellow students seems to have galvanized organizers, and they're promising to make gun policy an issue when they head to the polls.

Carlson-Sirvent and Clare Driscoll, both juniors, were the driving force behind thefirst demonstration at their school, in February after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Since then, more than a dozen of their fellow students have pitched in to the cause. 

Still, Driscoll is just as surprised at the turnout as Carlson-Sirvent - considering the consequences for participating.

Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Over 200 students participated in Upper Arlington High School's walkout, despite the threat of punishment from administrators.

“Yeah, and especially since like the last one there were no consequences for walking out, but this one like everyone will receive two lunch detentions, so the fact that we have this many people is amazing," Driscoll says. "So yeah it’s really exciting.”

And their protest drew more than just students. Outside the fence, a knot of half a dozen parents and grandparents looked on with pride—including Driscoll’s grandmother.

“I’m not always going to agree with her on things, but it want her to know that I support her," Mary Driscoll said. “I want—since she’s starting to be active, they need support. They need to know that people are behind them, and that they’ll listen to them. You know, they need to know that they’re not just high school kids."

Credit Nick Evans / WOSU
Students at the Upper Arlington walkout sign a petition calling for gun control changes.

At nearby Grandview Heights High School, Assistant Principal Shawn Hinkle put the total participants at 70 or 80 students. A Columbus City Schools spokesman said a few students walked out at Centennial High School.

But the reaction wasn’t universally positive. Two Upper Arlington students who oppose the group’s call for gun restrictions hung around, looking on but not participating. 

Meanwhile in Westerville, district officials sent a letter reminding parents of the school's absence policies and raising concerns about the duration of the planned walkout. Two of the district's high schools chose not participate in response, but Mackenzie Manteniecks from Westerville North went ahead with the walkout.

“They’re just punishing us like we’d be missing school on any given day, but for most people out here, they do have their parent’s signature,” Manteniecks said.

Manteniecks empathized with the school’s push for formally excused absences, and even with that complication, her rally drew more than 50 students.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.