Students from Edison, Hayfield, West Potomac and Mark Twain join walkouts

Hayfield walkout

Hayfield Secondary School students are seen during their walkout Wednesday. (Courtesy of H2Nnewsmagazine)

Hundreds of students from the Richmond Highway area joined students from across the countryWednesday participating in walkouts protesting gun violence in the wake of last week’s deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The walkouts took place shortly after noon at Edison High School, Hayfield Secondary School, West Potomac High School and Mark Twain Middle School, as well as at other high schools and middle schools across Fairfax County and the nation.

At Edison, about 200 students gathered near a rock painted by students in front of the school, according to an email sent to parents by principal Pamela Ellison Brumfield. Images from the walkout show various students standing atop the rock and speaking to the crowd.

Student holding "Fear has no place in schools" sign

An Edison student holds a sign during their protest. (Image courtesy of Anna Hiltajczuk)

Edison is one of a handful of schools in the county that has had to deal with fake threats since last week’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The threat against Edison — determined by police to be non-credible — ended up cancelling a pep rally at the school last week.

Between 250-300 students walked out of West Potomac and gathered on the school’s football field, according to an email sent to parents by principal Tangy Millard. Images from Hayfield’s walkout also showed a large crowd of students gathering outside the school.

At Twain Middle School on Franconia Road, approximately 200 students walked out for 17 minutes, which honored the 17 people murdered in Florida, principal Charles Miller said in an email to parents. Mark Twain also had to deal with a bogus social media threat against the school over the weekend, causing extra security to be in place at the school on Tuesday, according to an email Miller sent to parents on Monday.

The letters sent by principals did not discuss the political advocacy motivating the walkouts, but many students made it clear their actions were about more than honoring those killed last week. Students at Edison carried homemade signs, with messages including “Fear has no place in our schools.” Hayfield students also carried signs and chanted slogans in favor of gun control.

Vanessa Sandoval, a senior at West Potomac, said the Florida shooting has shaken her and many of her classmates.The tragedy, as well as the outspoken response by many of theMarjory Stoneman Douglas students, inspired Sandoval and her classmates to make a political statement about the need for more gun control.

“It can happen to any school, anywhere any time,” Sandoval said. “We need to change the laws so that it can be prevented.”

Sandoval said more protests may be planned in the future, and that unlike past mass shootings, she doesn’t expect the issue of gun control to fade away from the news.

“We want to be free in our school,” Sandoval said. “Kids are taking a stand. This is just ridiculous. It needs to change.”

West Potomac principal Tangy Millard addressed the students who walked out, saying she understood that students were concerned about their safety, and the safety of other students around the nation.

“I know that this only the beginning as you guys start to think about how to change this nation,” Millard said. “We are not here to tell you how to do or what to do, because at the end of the day you guys are our next leaders.”

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