Orlando-area students participate in walkouts in wake of school shooting

Peaceful protests planned nationwide on March 14

ORLANDO, Fla. – Students and teachers in the Orlando area participated in walkouts Wednesday, exactly one week after a shooting at a South Florida school that left 17 people dead and even more injured.

District officials reported that the demonstrations were peaceful and organized with students meeting in a pre-determined for 17 minutes -- one minute for each of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting victims.

Walkouts were reported Wednesday at Hagerty High School, Lake Mary High School, Oviedo High School, University High School in Orange City and Lyman High School, among other schools across the state.

Students at Hagerty High School tell News 6 more than 100 students participated in the walkout Wednesday morning.

"To show that we're all for something. We're all for one main goal and we want to make a change, instead of just sitting around," senior Justin Emerson said.

The students protested peacefully in the school's courtyard. Senior Alexis Zengotita said teachers and staff were supportive of the students.

"They've been very good with it. They allowed us, they just closed off areas so we don't leave campus. They made sure we stayed involved in the activity," Zengotita said.

The walkout at Hagerty High School was joined by other demonstrations. Video showed students sitting on the ground outside of University High School in Orlando chanting "What do we want? No violence. When do we want it? Now."

Students also chanted "never again" outside of Harmony High School in St. Cloud.

Officials from Volusia County Schools said more than 2,000 students participated in a walk out at University High School in Orange City. One photo showed a student holding a sign that read, "Change isn't coming. It is here."

"For the government to actually do something about this instead of just ignoring it and fix the problem that needs to be fixed," Zengotita said.

The demonstrations come ahead of The #Enough National School Walkout, organized by the leaders of the Women's March, which will take place March 14, exactly one month after the mass shooting in Parkland.

The walkout will last 17 minutes and will begin at 10 a.m.

"We are not safe at school. We are not safe in our cities and towns. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence," a statement on the event's website reads.

Officials from local school districts have released statements ahead of the planned protests. Below is a list of their responses. Overall, officials have said that students will not be punished for participating, as long as the walkouts remain peaceful and organized.

Osceola County School District

"We have been hearing about several dates for walkouts. It is nothing that is being coordinated by the district or schools. We had student walkouts mid-morning (Wednesday) at several middle and high schools that went extremely well. Students congregated peacefully for a short time at a designated location on the schools’ campuses and then went back to class. Students used their voices in a positive way to push for change to improve safety and security at our schools and in our community. No student was to be punished for participating, as long as their involvement was not disruptive. . . and none were."

Seminole County School District

While the district isn't organizing the event, officials have been made aware and school administrators have been notified. Students will be permitted to participate as long as they congregate in the courtyard area, which will be supervised. Students at high schools and some middle schools are expected to take part in the protest. No student will be punished for participating.

Orange County Public Schools

Officials said they were aware that students walked out on Wednesday and plan to walk out again on March 14. Administrators at each Orange County school have designated a location where protesters will meet for 17 minutes. After the moment of silence, students will return to their classrooms. Administrators will supervise the demonstration but no student will be punished for participating.

Volusia County Schools

School district officials said they supported "the students' rights to express their opinions/voices while making sure they were safe." The district said it was voluntary and that students were not expected nor encouraged to participate. They were allowed to gather for a short time on a practice field and then returned to class. The principal at University High School in Orange City estimates more than 2,000 students participate. The school's population is approximately 2,800.  Teachers also stayed in the building for those who chose not to participate. No issues were reported.