Students Protest Outside of LAUSD 19 Years After Columbine Shooting
Hundreds of middle school and high school students walked out of their classrooms on Friday, April 20 to gather outside of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, California to demand gun reform. This nationwide event was planned on the nineteenth anniversary of the Columbine shooting in 1999.
Students and fellow supporters sat in protest on the north side of LAUSD on the corner of S Beaudry Ave and W 3rd St on the windy Friday afternoon, with many holding various signs. Javier Villega Angel, a freshman at Linda Marquez high school, sat on the curb with his fellow classmates while holding a sign that read, ‘Guns Don’t DIE Children Do’. “I came here to support all the victims that died… [who] knows, it could happen to me, my sister, my friends, their family.”
Amongst the crowd students continuing to chant over megaphones and speakers, sat Valerie Morishige. Although she is currently not a student, she reminisced about the impression the Columbine shooting had on her as a high school student.
“Columbine was really impactful in my life. That’s when I was coming of age in high school… And ever since then nothing has changed.” Since Columbine, there have been at least 193 school shootings in primary and secondary schools across the country, according to The Washington Post.
Dozens of students from Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES) students attended the protest, who were told, by school officials, that there would be consequences for those who left school to attend this protest. High school freshman Phiza Meah said, “They told us that we were going to get suspended and get detention and they gave some of it already to some students… Yes, they told us, they were screaming at us when we were walking out.”
High school freshman Taso Marcopulos said some students who tried to walk out of LACES were prevented from doing so, “Some students weren’t able to walk out because the whole administra[tion] created a wall to block the students.”
Despite the schools' efforts from keeping students from leaving, students from LACES spoke over the megaphone and speakers to have their voices heard. High school freshman Norah Brown said, “We need someone to physically say that they hear us. We can’t just have them sitting in a building, knowing that they’re hearing us, but not coming out and saying something to comfort us, or give us any closure of some sort.”
Vivian Ekchian, interim superintendent of LAUSD, walked out of the headquarters following the student's demands for members of the LAUSD board to come outside to listen to them. “I’m going to advocate for student safety, but also high academic standards," Ekchian said. "Because you have to be college career and life ready to be able to lead this country tomorrow. You’re already leaders, but you haven’t been elected yet. But the opportunity is now, you’re not going to wait anymore, you don’t have to be old to take action. You can do it every day right now.”
When told of the adverse consequences LACES students were told they would face for attending the event, Ekchian responded by stating, “That was not the direction given by me or the board of education.” She also agreed to relay that information back to the school.
The event in downtown Los Angeles ended at around 2:30 p.m. as the students dispersed into downtown Los Angeles.