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Horry County students prepare to stand with Florida shooting survivors

More than 600 miles away, students prepare to stand with Florida shooting survivors, (Sydney Glenn/WPDE)

Students across the country, including in Horry County, are preparing for the National School Walkout Wednesday.

Horry County schools said it will be offering "safe alternatives" to middle and high schoolers on Wednesday in observance of the people who lost their lives during the Parkland school shooting. The district says students who walk out of the school may face disciplinary consequences.

Saint James High School is one of the schools participating, but in a non-political way.

Senior Ryan Thompson knew he wanted to participate after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed the lives of 17 innocent people. He started gathering signatures from students at Saint James who were interested.

“I was definitely nervous about it, because I was like, I heard that if the administration found out anything was being organized then teachers were supposed to report it," he said.

Thompson, who said he has a spotless record, was asked to meet with the principal. He thought he might be in trouble, but instead the principal gave him the green light to make a plan; no signatures needed.

“I told him I had it but he never even made me show it. So, there could have been one name on here but it still would have been just as powerful," he said.

The event will not be a political one. Instead it is focused on remembering the lives lost and there is a specific plan for the day.

“Instead of it being 10 o’clock and students running random, having something planned out makes it much more purposeful," Thompson said, “We’re going to ring a bell every 30 seconds, and then announce the name of a student and their grade and have a video playing about it. So students are allowed to sit in their classroom, stand in their classroom or go in the hallway if they want to."

Horry County Schools agrees, saying students walking out of schools at random would "present a safety concern."

We have determined that a walkout would present a safety concern for our students as they are entrusted to our care during school hours. Schools have been working with staff and student leaders to identify options that will take place inside the schools and student participation will be voluntary. These activities will be communicated to students at the school-level. Students that choose to walkout of the schools on March 14 may face disciplinary consequences for leaving the school without permission. It is the hope of the school administration to provide safer and more meaningful alternatives for students to honor the victims from Parkland, Florida.

Thompson is working to plan the event with several other students, including senior Catherine Morris.

“I just feel like there is no reason that kids should have to go to school and, like, being scared for their life," she said.

Saint James is not the only school participating, The Academy for the Arts, Science & Technology is also doing something.

“Make it more of a memorial, than making it political and making it divisive within our school. We wanted to do this so we can remember the people that lost their lives," AAST Erin Emiroglu said.

Related: Schools brace for massive student walkouts over gun violence

While those schools are staying away from the politics, some of the students are passionate about it.

“There are school shootings that are happening. People are against that. Everyone is against that. The political part is when it comes to how to fix it and not like there is one right answer. It is gun violence and there should be more gun regulations. There should also be more emphasis on mental health. There should be more emphasis on kindness in schools. So it’s not one thing," Morris said.

Something needs to change, Emiroglu said.

“Sandy Hook was the first school shooting where I kind of knew what was happening. I was at at an age where I understood what was happening. So, since then I’ve honestly been scared going to school every day. Every year and every semester I pick the seat that’s farthest from the door, closest to a window in case anything happens," she said.

Morris, Emiriglu and Thompson are all full of passion and ready to have their voices heard.

“We’re not letting those students die in vain pretty much. We’re showing our support to them and we’re showing that even if all of us aren’t old enough to vote, we’re old enough to voice our opinions and make our voices heard," Thompson said.

Horry County schools said students walking out of schools would "present a safety concern."

We have determined that a walkout would present a safety concern for our students as they are entrusted to our care during school hours. Schools have been working with staff and student leaders to identify options that will take place inside the schools and student participation will be voluntary. These activities will be communicated to students at the school-level. Students that choose to walkout of the schools on March 14 may face disciplinary consequences for leaving the school without permission. It is the hope of the school administration to provide safer and more meaningful alternatives for students to honor the victims from Parkland, Florida.



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