Oak Harbor High School students joined thousands of young people across the nation at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a 17-minute walkout to advocate for stricter gun control and to honor the 17 victims of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor High School students joined thousands of young people across the nation at 10 a.m. Wednesday for a 17-minute walkout to advocate for stricter gun control and to honor the 17 victims of the shooting in Parkland, Fla. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

‘Informed’ and ‘furious’ students lead call for safer schools

Sophomore Keelie Partridge stood on a rock so the other Oak Harbor High School students could see her. The sky was overcast and there was a cold breeze, yet many of the students didn’t wear jackets.

“Today we congregate undivided,” she said into the megaphone. “We come together not as Republicans and Democrats, but as one force, unified under the belief that we are no longer safe in our learning environment, and we demand change.”

Approximately 200 Oak Harbor High School students participated in the national school walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday in front of the high school to protest gun violence. They joined thousands of young people across the nation one month after the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The walkout lasted for 17 minutes in recognition of the 17 victims.

Student-led walkouts also occurred at Skagit Valley College Whidbey Island Campus, North Whidbey Middle School, Oak Harbor Intermediate, Coupeville High School and South Whidbey High School.

Partridge spoke about being tired of the cycle of “life and death and prayers and promises and nothingness.” A clear message stood out from all of the speakers— members of their generation are not going to stand for a lack of action anymore.

“We rally as one massive, unstoppable force,” said Partridge. “We congregate undivided because we are well and truly past patiently waiting.”

Students from the liberty club encouraged the congregation to call their representatives and handed out voter registration forms. Around 20 adults stood on the sidewalk and cheered them on like parents at a soccer game, but instead of saying “go!” they shouted “vote!”

“You’re the future, make it count!” one woman cheered as the students headed back inside.

However, the community response has not all been so positive. Comments on the Whidbey News-Times Facebook post about the walkout ranged from telling the kids to go back to class to calling them “snowflakes.” Many said the focus should be on mental health, bullying or improved school security instead of guns.

“I’m proud to say that my son did not participate in this unproductive and politicized display,” Sarah Felger commented.

Some expressed disappointment with the school district, though the walkout was not a school-sponsored event.

Dwight Lundstrom, Oak Harbor High school principal, sent an email on March 9 informing families that students planned to participate in the demonstration. He said that students would be excused for the 17 minutes, with parent permission, and it would be treated as an unexcused absence without permission.

“We want to ensure all students feel safe and respected no matter what they choose to do,” Lundstrom wrote. “We are proud of our students who are making their views known on all sides of this issue and speaking up about changes they want in our society. Learning to channel their passions through peaceful advocacy about issues that impact them can be a powerful growth experience for our students.”

Many who were opposed to the demonstration said the students don’t understand the issue fully.

“Absolutely ridiculous” Justin Jones wrote. “Just an excuse to get out of school. How many would show up on a Saturday to protest? Don’t even understand what they are protesting. The problem is bullying, the problem is parenting, the problem is liberal agenda and media. Fix what’s going on inside homes first.”

Partridge told the assembled students they would be met with doubt and opposition in their fight, but encouraged them to not be dissuaded from continuing on.

“I have news for every adult who doesn’t want my generation to have a voice,” she said. “We are intelligent. We are informed. And we are furious.”

Watch Partridge’s full speech here.

Desirae Payne hands out voter registration forms to students who are 18 or who will be by the November election. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Desirae Payne hands out voter registration forms to students who are 18 or who will be by the November election. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Sophomore Keelie Partridge speaks at the school walkout Wednesday in front of Oak Harbor High School. She and other students who spoke urged the audience to call their local representatives to advocate for stricter gun control in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Sophomore Keelie Partridge speaks at the school walkout Wednesday in front of Oak Harbor High School. She and other students who spoke urged the audience to call their local representatives to advocate for stricter gun control in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Students walked out of Oak Harbor High School at 10 a.m. Wednesday for 17 minutes in recognition of the 17 victims in the Parkland, Fla. shooting. The student-led effort advocated for stricter gun control. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

Students walked out of Oak Harbor High School at 10 a.m. Wednesday for 17 minutes in recognition of the 17 victims in the Parkland, Fla. shooting. The student-led effort advocated for stricter gun control. Photo by Laura Guido/Whidbey News-Times

More in News

Coupeville ferry run is out of service

The only vessel currently on the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville route is out of… Continue reading

Town points out error in reporting to auditor

The Washington State Auditor’s Office issued an audit finding against the Town… Continue reading

Central Whidbey fire hopes high-tech gadgets will entice, retain volunteers

Central Whidbey Island Fire and Rescue is not only geared up to… Continue reading

Man faces prison for indecent liberties

An Oak Harbor woman who was chased by a man with a… Continue reading

Cider Fest rules!

Event features freshly-pressed juice, food, music

Man faces prison for indecent liberties

A former South Whidbey man faces a prison term for sexually assaulting… Continue reading

Strange man found sleeping in vacation rental property

An employee at a property management company found a stranger sleeping in… Continue reading

Former Big 5 employee who claimed racism gets $165,000 in settlement

A man who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit over racist behavior he… Continue reading

Nortier to step down as Island Transit executive director

Executive director deboarding bus system next month

Most Read