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Texas students walk out of classes, continuing momentum of gun violence protests

Thousands of Texas students walked out of their classes Friday morning to protest ongoing gun violence in America.

Students from Stony Point High School in Round Rock participate in a student-driven walkout calling for action against gun violence on April 20, 2018, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

For one minute and 13 seconds on Friday, students across Texas stood in silence outside of their schools after walking out of class. 

The 13 seconds were in honor of 13 lives lost during the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that occurred exactly 19 years before Friday's walkouts. 

"We’re just trying to get everyone out of being scared of talking,” Alpine High School senior Anna Downing said in a phone interview after she walked out.

Fueled by the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students in Texas and across the country walked out of their classes Friday, protesting gun violence in America. The shooting caused an eruption of conversation and protest about gun violence among middle and high school students around the country. 

At 10 a.m., students across Texas began leaving their classrooms in protest. In Austin, McCallum High School, McNeil High School and Austin High School all participated in walkouts, according to the Austin American-Statesman. In Round Rock, students from Stony Point High School marched to U.S. Rep. John Carter's district office to deliver a gun reform petition. Along the march route, residents of a nearby neighborhood handed out water bottles to student protestors in support. 

Students in Dallas, Arlington, Frisco, El Paso and San Antonio also participated in National School Walkout Day, according to The Dallas Morning News and the El Paso Times. School officials at Keller High School asked students to stay inside during the scheduled walkout time due to a threat of violence received on Thursday

Downing was one of six students at her high school who organized a walkout — and now they face punishment for their actions, she said. Downing said school officials gave student protesters a three-day placement in a disciplinary alternative education program.

Downing said that although her punishment may affect her role in the National Honor Society, she believed protesting was more important. 

"I think this is just a statement to get the conversation started and actually make a change," Downing said. “Even now when we’re trying to stand up for our rights, they’re trying to silence us." 

Alpine ISD Superintendent Becky Watley said in a statement the district "respects students' rights" but "meetings of groups cannot interfere with school activities." According the Alpine ISD handbook, students who miss class without proper permission will be subject to disciplinary action, including being counted as absent for the class they missed. 

"Any student who violates the Student Code of Conduct, including by leaving class or campus during the school day or by disrupting school activities, will be disciplined in accordance with the standards of behavior in the handbook," Watley said.

Meanwhile, Austin ISD created a "Frequently Asked Questions" guide for parents and students regarding the walkouts. Students who walk out of class will receive an unexcused absence, the school district said. 

"We recognize that emotions are charged in regard to school violence and we respect the different perspectives of students and families," Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz said in a statement. "As always, the safety of our students is our top priority." 

The last national walkout was last month's March 14 National Walkout Day, on the one month anniversary of the Parkland, Florida, shootings. Most Texas schools were on spring break during that walkout.

In Waco, Midway High School students did walkout on March 14. But they did not participate in the Friday walkouts due to a previous agreement between students and the school board, junior Emily Kate Mosley said. Instead, students launched an anti-bullying campaign and released a school safety plan on Friday.  

Thousands of students from Austin-area schools gathered at the steps of the Texas Capitol on Friday afternoon to continue their protest. Some students had fake blood splattered on them; another student had drawn a target on his chest. 

Westlake High School student Jemima Abalogu remembers being in the fifth grade when the Sandy Hook shootings happened — and now in the 10th grade, she has watched the Parkland shootings unfold. Abalogu said the student protests meant more than just skipping class for a day. 

"Those in power think just because we can't vote means we can't touch them," Abalogu said. "We are the generation to pick up the pieces and we deserve a voice." 

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