Students hopeful that walkouts will provide change

On Friday, April 20, students at Westlake will be walking out of class in peaceful protest in the aftermath of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month, in which a 19-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle opened fire and killed 17 people.

The shooting opened a new phase in the nationwide gun control conversation marked by student action. Stoneman Douglas students formed an organization called Never Again MSD (Marjory Stoneman Douglas), also known by the hashtag #NeverAgain, that has actively organized protests demanding legislative policy changes to prevent future shootings and condemning US policymakers who have been financially supported by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The group won a major victory on March 9th when Governor Rick Scott of Florida signed a bill into law that addressed various gun control measures. The group is also planning a nationwide protest for Saturday, March 24th titled March for Our Lives, which will feature a central march on the capitol in Washington D.C. and satellite marches in cities all over the country, including one in Austin. (insert link)

High schools across the nation are making plans to join the National School Walkout on April 20, the anniversary of the deadly Columbine High School shooting in Colorado that killed 12 students in 1999. At 10 a.m. in each respective time zone, high schoolers will be leaving class, staying outside until 10:17 a.m. The 17-minute time frame is intended to honor the 17 victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting, and the mid-morning time is meant to cause maximum disruption in people’s daily routines.

If students are interested in participating in activities on Friday, April 20, several opportunities are being planned at Westlake. That day, students may walk out of their 2nd period class at 10 a.m. and make their way outside, remaining outside until 10:17 a.m. Seniors Ruy Martinez and Rebecca Lin are part of a group of seniors who are working with administration to plan this time—there may be a silent memorial service in the stadium. Regardless, students will have the individual choice whether to walk out and their individual reasons for doing so.

“While the 17 minutes is a time of mourning, it’s also meant to allow us to really think about what we can do to make change as students,” Rebecca said. “What can we do to protect ourselves and our friends as minors who aren’t allowed to have a say in politics yet? By taking charge and educating ourselves, we can make our voice known to policymakers.”

During 4th and 5th lunches, political clubs at Westlake will be hosting opportunities for political activism, including call drives and letter drives for contacting Austin Capitol legislators. All clubs on campus are encouraged to organize their own events in relation to the events at Stoneman Douglas High, contacting Mr. Ramsey for the go-ahead and coordinating with the group led by Ruy and Rebecca.

“I want this to be big, to be organized, and to run smoothly,” Ruy said. “We’ll make sure that it’s a place where people can discuss this matter in a safe place. Ultimately we’re trying to prevent a shooting like this from happening again. And in order to do that, we need a place where all voices can be productively heard. Westlake is a significant school, and we have a lot of power in our privilege — and we have a responsibility to do this. I want there to be discussion. And I want it to be at Westlake.”

A separate effort is being made to organize a walk to the Capitol during the school day of April 20. Sophomores Annabelle Harris and Michelle Vandoorn are on the planning committee for the Texas Capitol Walkout.

“I’m sick of being afraid and knowing that shootings are happening all the time,” Annabelle said. “I’m scared to go to school. And I don’t want to walk down the hall thinking about where I’d hide or what I’d do if there was a shooter.”

Students from Westlake are being invited to leave school at 10:40 a.m. on April 20 and make their way to Austin High School, where students from a number of Austin schools will congregate before walking to the Capitol building around 11:30 a.m. There, events are being planned from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., including student bands and political speakers. Approximately 90 Westlake students have signed up to attend so far, and students are expected to attend from about 14 high schools, including Lake Travis, LASA, Austin High, Atkins, St. Stephens, McCallum, and Anderson.

“Awareness is what we’re trying to push,” Michelle said. “People aren’t really aware of what’s going on. Since so many people will be walking out, we want people to understand what’s going on, what we really mean by gun control, raising awareness for more safety. No one likes kids being murdered in schools. This is awareness that will push forward into more restrictions.”

You can learn more about this event and sign up at, and/or follow the group on Instagram at @atxstudentwalkout and @westlakewalkout.