LAKELAND, Fla. — While students across the nation walked out in honor of the victims killed at Stoneman Douglas High, hundreds of Polk County students were threatened with detention if they joined the movement.
From the sky, it looked as if Mckeel Academy in Lakeland, Florida was following suit. Hundreds of kids were filing outside, in a line and continued to stand there for 17 minutes.
Soon after, ABC Action News discovered, not all students were protesting gun laws but were forced outside by a planned fire drill.
“I think they wanted to kind of cover it up a little bit you know, they wanted attention like ‘we do support you we do, we do we, do wait wait wait,’” said Katie Gallo, a junior at Mckeel Academy who says she planned the walkout after she was inspired by the Parkland students who walked out in February.
But when she told teachers and administrators about her plans the day before, they allegedly tried to put a stop to it.
ABC Action News received multiple emails from students after the 10 a.m. fire drill, saying that their school orchestrated a fake walkout after students rebelled against the school’s stance on disrupting class time.
“My math teacher was like don’t participate in it, don’t get in trouble and then announced over the intercom, Mrs. Davie said don’t participate or you will get a detention at minimum,” said Reagan Craig.
Craig, only in tenth grade said she was intimidated into not participating in the walkout because other students were afraid of getting in trouble and wouldn’t do it with her.
Over the intercom, you can hear a school staff member tell students there will be a 17-minute moment of silence for those wishing to participate at 8:30 a.m. instead of the national walkout scheduled for 10 a.m.
The school staff member then goes on to say if anyone decides to join the movement at 10 a.m. they will be punished with detention at the minimum.
Still, students decided to walk out despite their teacher's wishes, so their voices could be heard.
“I’m not going to let this sit, this is not going to sit for me,” Katie Gallo and dozens of other students walked out at 10 a.m. like they had planned.
First encountering locked front doors, turning around and heading out the back.
That’s when the fire alarms starting blaring.
“The people who died faced a lot greater of an issue than what just getting a detention,” Craig said after school on Wednesday.
ABC Action News spoke with a staff person at Mckeel Academy who says the drill was planned last week.
Since then, we have requested emails about the plan and the intention of the timing.
“I’m angry right now, it fires me up every time I talk about it, every time I think about it,” Gallo said.
Students say they believe the fire drill was made up, just in time to cover up the school's monumental mistake.
"I’ve been waiting all day to hear from the office to be called down for my detention or for my suspension but I wonder if because they did the fire drill that they are not going to do that,” Gallo said.