Hays High School students who participated in a national gun violence protest and memorial Wednesday morning will not face official repercussions.
Approximately 120 students walked out of their classrooms and gathered around the totem pole in front of the school shortly after 10 a.m. this morning.
Two girls were the first to walk out the main entrance at 10 a.m. and stood silently in the parking lot until joining their classmates several minutes later.
While Principal Marty Straub and other school personnel stood around the perimeter of the group, the students, some with protest signs, sat quietly for 17 minutes, part of a nationwide action of protest against gun violence and a memorial for the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Fla.
One staff member moved quietly among the students, asking for their names. At least one student questioned Straub afterward why names were being taken.
Straub said that was in part to be able to check if any students who talk to media during the school day had opted in to allow media coverage.
“At some point when are we going to say enough is enough?” one of the girls who was first to walk out said afterward. Her name is not being used pending confirmation of a media release with the school.
“We need to have more stricter rules of who’s allowed to have guns, especially not just what age kids can have guns, what age parents can have guns, but what type of guns are we going to allow them to have,” she said, her voice becoming emotional.
Two days before the Florida shooting, Hays police investigated a threat made against Hays High by a student. The student was taken into protective custody and a Child In Need of Care order issued by the district court.
The continuing investigation, combined with reactions to the Florida shooting gave rise to rumors and concerns about a continued threat that week in Hays that culminated with Superintendent John Thissen and Hays USD 489 School Board President Lance Bickle admitting the lack of communication was a mistake and apologizing for the ensuing fears and concerns.
The students who participated will not face any punishment for missing class said Straub, a former social studies teacher.
“They’re peaceful, they’ve communicated with us. I wanted to keep them inside because I think it’s safer, but obviously it looks like it’s going off OK,” he said.
After the 17 minutes of silence, students returned to their classes.