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Tampa Bay area students walk out advocating for gun laws reform

Posted at 4:14 PM, Apr 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-04-20 18:55:27-04

UPDATE 4-20-18:

It’s been 19 years since the columbine school massacre. Students taking part in National Walk Out Day insist not enough has been done to protect them nearly two decades later. They’re advocating for solutions against gun violence.

“People with mental illnesses shouldn't’t have guns there should be stricter laws," said Jacob Deetz, a senior. "They should ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines.”

February’s school shooting in Parkland, just four hours away, students warn matters. Energizing them to speak out and show up for change.

“It makes me proud, it makes me full of energy, it makes me so happy," said Deetz of the marches.

Gun collector Bill Puckett agrees there’s a problem.

“Of course they should have a concern that part is perfectly legitimate," said Puckett.

But he believes extending gun control laws is not only unconstitutional but also ineffective.

“They are trying to put a bandaid on something that needs to be fixed," he said.

Instead he thinks the problem is in our schools.

“Teachers knew every kid by their first name. They knew exactly who they were and what they were," said Puckett. "And they could recognize problems in students. Today we run just an assembly line”

But student activist say these types of arguments are just a distraction.

“I don’t understand why we are putting the value of a material item over the value of human life," said JC Pritchett, a senior.

“Children are to be seen and not heard. And it’s not because they don’t have anything to say but because their brains are not fully developed yet," said Lee Pitney, a gun owner.
She believes these students are unable to see the bigger picture because of their young age.

But students are warning don’t underestimate the power of their generation.

“When November comes around, we’re going to the polls. We’re going in great numbers. We’re using our social media influence to make sure we get out there and anyone not in support of this movement or our lives will not be in office next term," said Pritchett.


The ACLU of Florida is asking Florida school superintendents to support students' rights in a planned day of action by marking the anniversary of the Columbine High school massacre. 

April 20th is the event organized by students across the country as part of the National School Walkout. 

ABC Action News reached out to school districts across the Bay area about the planned events.

Here's what counties are saying about walkouts in their counties:

Polk County:

It is possible that Polk County students will take part in such demonstrations.

Although the school district is not sanctioning or authorizing student walkouts, we've provided guidance to our principals should their students wish to take part in such demonstrations. We are allowing students an opportunity to express themselves while also maintaining a safe learning environment, and without causing an excessive disruption to the school day.


Hillsborough County: 

Our principals have been working with our student leaders at each school to determine what students plan to do, if anything, tomorrow.

If they are planning something, we are providing a safe location on campus to have their voices heard.

Parents should know we are working with students. We want them to be able to have their voices heard but have to balance that with their safety and security.


Sarasota County:

Sarasota County Schools are not participating in walkouts planned for Friday, April 20. Our students are expected to be in class unless they have an approved absence from their parents. Following district protocol, each school administrator may consider disciplining a student who chooses to walkout without permission to do so.


Pinellas County:

The advertised walk out is not a school-organized activity. Students who participate will be asked to follow the proper procedure and have signed permission from a parent/guardian to leave school.

Citrus County:

Student walkouts are specifically listed in our school board approved, student code of conduct (page 21). It is considered a disruptive action and Principals are expected to always enforce the code of conduct. Our Principals have taken a proactive approach and have worked with student leaders to develop alternative activities to express their support for the victims of school violence. Please feel free to contact any of our High School Principals and they can share more specific details of the student created activities.

Manatee County:

The School District of Manatee County will not allow class disruptions. A spokesperson tells ABC Action News by phone a letter was sent home last week that walkouts or protests would be considered a distraction to students's learning as the end of the school year is coming up.

Lakewood Ranch High School plans to move their walkout to after school school.