Kick starting a conversation on gun violence, as opposed to gun control, was the message from Wimberley High students who walked out of campus for a short period Friday.
Their goal was to create communication that goes beyond party lines to bring some kind of closure for students and teachers killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting on Feb. 14.
The event was held a day before millions marched in Austin, Washington D.C. and other major cities across the country advocating for gun violence awareness.
A moment of silence was held and balloons were released into the gloomy sky for those who lost their lives in a school shooting nearly five weeks ago. Regardless of the time, students across the nation are still mourning the loss of the students in Parkland and look to one another for answers.
The Wimberley High School walkout, which was a polarizing and controversial act of protest from within the halls of the school, featured roughly 100 students who attempted to start a non-partisan conversation about finding a solution to gun violence in schools.
“We all can agree that there is an underlying problem here, but we don’t know how to reach the solution,” said Ben Thomas, a Wimberley High School freshman who wrote a speech for the walkout. “This was not a politically motivated event. It was to mourn and start a conversation to find answers.”
When writing his speech, which was recited by freshman Jessica Davis, Thomas said his intent was to promote a discussion in the community and raise questions about safety in schools – something he feels is lacking across the nation.
However, the protest did not come without its concern from parents. On Facebook, parents and students discredited the walkout, stating it was an attempt to push a liberal agenda.
At the walkout, some students wore “Make American Great Again” and t-shirts in support of President Donald Trump as a symbol of protest.
Davis said there were members of the community that were against the walkout. Living in a community that is predominantly conservative, Davis said she knew of students who were in support of the walkout, but did not participate because they had friends who were not in support.
“A lot of the boys were very hesitant to go just because of what people would think,” Davis said. “When you grow up only knowing one perspective, it’s hard to get away from that.”
Since the Parkland shooting, Davis said Wimberley High School has tried to revamp security. At least four officers are always present at the school and students have been expelled because of threats made to other students.
Thomas said his frustration stemmed from the misinterpretation of the walkout from parents and students alike, but he is happy with the overall turnout and messages conveyed.
“This (protest) was a necessary event and it was peacefully executed,” said Ruben Bacerra, Democratic candidate for County Judge. “We’re tired of the NRA controlling the message on all fronts and its time for a change. I came here to support these students.”
Although the protest was approved by Wimberley ISD, Superintendent Dwain York did not allow the press on school property.
The Hays Free Press reached out to the school district for clarification on the situation, but no comment was received as of press time.
“I think it was a politically motivated move,” Becerra said. “It’s an unfortunate stance by the district and I don’t agree with it.”
Despite a community of parents and students torn with the walkout, Davis said she is surprised by the number of students who participated in the walkout.
“Everything went smoothly and a lot better than I anticipated,” Davis said. “The students who were counter-protesting were even respectful and I am very proud of our community and the support we had.”