STORY BY TAHMID KAWSAR, JOHNATHON HARRIS, SAM STYNEN, AND RYAN SMITH. PHOTOS BY ADAM ALAM
Several hundred McQueen students walked out of class Wednesday for 17 minutes, one for each student who died in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, demanding action on gun violence.
Facing snowy weather, students gathered at the east entrance of the school holding signs advocating for stricter gun control and demanding more action to protect the nation’s schools. Some students used the time to call Nevada’s representatives. The students’ protest was part of a national student walkout.
“I’m hoping that [the walkout] will give the student body a voice, that it will get Congress to listen to us,” sophomore Mateo Hall said. “I think [gun violence] is a serious problem and we need to be the ones to make a difference.”
Hall and other students were selling t-shirts with the text #GenerationofChange on the front. The Instagram account McQueen_School_Walkout was advertising the shirts earlier this week; the group said the shirts were sold at cost, so no money was made on the shirts.
Senior Hailey Gilles handed out fliers with the contact information for several Nevada state representatives. Worried that some students might think the walkout was just an excuse to get out of class for a few minutes, she said she wanted to use the time to help students take the next step in the conversation.
“The main argument I heard against the walkout was that we weren’t doing anything but wasting time,” Gillis said. “So, I decided we wouldn’t waste our time, we would take those 17 minutes to enact change and be politically active by calling our representatives.”
Principal Amy Marable said the walkout was peaceful and concluded with no issues. Those students who participated were marked tardy to their fourth period classes, but that information had been communicated in advance of the walkout. Student Resource Officer Kevin Earl said students had even reached out to him in advance to coordinate the morning’s events. Earl was present during the walkout.
Marable said she was impressed with the way students handled the event.
“It’s important for students to have a voice,” she said. “I would like to see it go beyond to something more. Today was the first step. I think people should be reaching out to our state, congressmen, and senators.
“I thank the student body for being peaceful and respectful.”
Another national walkout is scheduled for April 20, and the March For Our Lives, a nationally- coordinated event with the same purpose, will take place on March 24. Reno marchers will gather in downtown’s City Plaza shortly before noon for that event.
The Excalibur is also hosting a forum on gun violence this Tues., March 20 at 6 p.m. in the Little Theater. Panelists for the event include Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve, Reno Chief of Police Jason Soto, Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, state Senator Julia Ratti, and County Commissioner Kitty Jung. Tickets to the event are free and can be ordered on EventBrite.