More than 50 Bellefonte Area High School students risked disciplinary action to participate in a national movement honoring the Parkland, Fla., school shooting victims and protesting gun violence.
At 10 a.m., they walked out and gathered in front of the school for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 victims.
“It feels wrong that we should have to worry about our lives during school time,” said Alex Hunziker, a BAHS senior who walked out.
A letter sent to parents earlier in the week from Bellefonte Area School District cited “supervision and safety concerns” about having students leave the building. A safe location within the school was announced for students wishing to assemble and communicate their ideas.
According to the letter, students who chose to exit the building would be held accountable to the school’s disciplinary code of conduct, which could result in detention or suspension.
Hunziker disagreed with the school district’s decision because it was supposed to be a student-run movement, and it was supposed to be public. But, he said he understood the safety concerns.
“It sucks that because we’re standing for what we believe in, we’re gonna get disciplined, but also from a logical standpoint I can understand why it’s happening,” Hunziker said.
He said the students who went outside were asked to write their names down when they re-entered the building.
Calls to the district about whether the administration would follow through with the disciplinary actions went unreturned Wednesday.
But the students are prepared for it if it comes.
“We all knew what we were getting into, and we knew the repercussions of our actions,” Hunziker said. “It’s not like we were ignorant to what the consequences were gonna be.”
At other districts in the county, everything went smoothly.
No one left the building at Philipsburg-Osceola, according to Superintendent Gregg Paladina.
“We had some go to our designated location in the auditorium, but they were respectful,” he said in an email.
About 300 Bald Eagle Area High School students sat in “absolute silence” for 17 minutes in the school’s gymnasium, Principal Jack Tobias said, adding that he couldn’t have been prouder about how they behaved.
Penns Valley Area School District didn’t return a request for comment Wednesday, but had planned to provide a designated location within the school for students who wished to gather and contact their local legislators.
A press release said students who chose to gather outside of that area would be subject to the school’s disciplinary code of conduct.