Exactly one month after 17 students, teachers, and coaches were shot and killed in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida by a 19-year-old with an AR-15 rifle, about 2,000 students from North Bergen High School staged a 17-minute walkout to remember the victims and protest gun violence.
The students were joined by many school and township administration, including Mayor Nicholas Sacco, Public Safety Commissioner Allen Pascual, School Superintendent Dr. George Solter, and Principal Paschal “Pat” Tennaro. The North Bergen Police Department closed Kennedy Boulevard in front of the school and ensured the safety of the students throughout the walkout.
The event began with Senior Class President Arianna Diaz reading the student body a tribute to the 17 victims, written by Senior Class Treasurer Aislinn Bram. “We are here today to not only recognize these students but to also take a stand,” the statement read, pointing out the vastly expanded number of mass shootings, including more than 300 in schools and universities over the past five years, and going on to declare, “No Student should face the daily fear of having their lives at risk while they are in school.”
This was followed by the solemn ringing of a bell for each of the 17 victims and the orderly walkout, during which numerous students carried homemade placards that they posted on the fence outside the school.
Diaz and Bram organized the event along with Senior Class Vice President Gerson Rodriguez in solidarity with simultaneous school walkouts across the nation. Because the victims were high schoolers of similar age, the shootings in Florida really struck home with the organizers and they felt the need to join the national conversation on gun control.
About 400 students opted not to participate in the walkout and remain inside the school. Another few dozen stayed outside and continued to voice strong opinions on gun violence and student safety after the walkout ended and the rest of the student body filed back inside the building.