WOODBURY – About 150 Nonnewaug High School students took part in this morning’s National School Walkout to protest gun violence and to push lawmakers to draft and pass gun control legislation.
But unlike some of the protests seen on network and cable news networks, the one at Nonnewaug was not as visible to the outside world. Nonnewaug High School Principal Julie Luby said the idea was to put student safety first.
The campus was secured, but not closed, as outsiders were only allowed at the school if they had a protest. The Woodbury Police Department and Resident State Trooper’s office also secured the perimeter of Nonnewaug via drone.
The protest, which was closed to the media, also took place indoors, in the school gymnasium, although this morning, students were given permission to go outside the building to the flagpole, which is near the front entrance of the building, according to Luby.
But the students didn’t even think about exiting the building until they felt it was safe, Luby said.
“Personally, although I will admit I was first opposed to the idea of teachers getting involved, I was very appreciative of administrations decision to have it held inside the school as well as in the front by the flag pole,” said Nonnewaug Junior Sarah Sandor. “The fact that they weren’t controlling the walkout but rather just observing it for our safety made the environment very empowering for me and my peers.”
“The kids were very concerned about safety, and today’s protest was because they don’t feel they are safe and invincible,” Luby said. “They wanted lawmakers to know they don’t feel safe in their own schools.”
Nonnewaug Senior Penelope Kogan said that she and her friends felt safe to share their opinions and start a conversation on what they believe needs to be done to ensure that all students are safe at school every day.
Kogan added that not all the students who participated shared the same viewpoint.
“There were definitely some students expressing that they were against the cause, but for the most part it was really inspiring to see students, who aren’t usually vocal, walking out and supporting the movement,” Kogan said.
Nonnewaug Sophomore Chloe Calo said she participated in the walkout because she wanted to take a moment to respect the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, where 17 people were shot and killed during a shooting one month ago today. Some students in the gym signed a banner, and also interviewed other students for a video that will be sent to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students.
Despite the controversial issue and the reason for the protest, Luby said she was confident that there wouldn’t be any incidents between students at Nonnewaug at today’s protest. After the protest, Luby told the students that she may have got more sleep than most of her counterparts because of the respect the students have for each other.
“I’m sure not many high school principals got a lot of sleep last night,” Luby said. “But I had confidence in the kids. They were respectful, purposeful, and kind. I am bursting with pride.”
Woodbury Middle School Students Also Protest
Meanwhile, across town at Woodbury Middle School, students led their own student-driven protest.
“The students did not participate until they knew they would be allowed to congregate,” said Woodbury Middle School Interim Principal Pam Lazaroski. “We gave them an opportunity to meet in the school’s Library Media Center, where we felt they would be safe. The students were very cooperative and respectful.”
Lazaroski said the students stood for 17 minutes in silence and then returned to their regularly scheduled classes. Lazaroski added that Pam Sordi, the Assistant Principal, complimented the students on their mature behavior while supporting the national initiative.
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