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Lee County High School students 'walk out' for different reasons

Hundreds of students filled the bleachers at Lee County High School's Trojan Field on Wednesday morning as part of National Walkout Day. / Mary Green

Hundreds of students filled the bleachers at Lee County High School's Trojan Field on Wednesday morning as part of National Walkout Day.

The day, which was commemorated across the country, marked the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Those in attendance at LCHS heard the names of all 17 Parkland victims read, followed by a moment of silence heard both at the field and inside the school. The walkout wrapped up with a message from student government and school administration.

"If you see something suspicious, then to report it, and also a speech about just being polite and nice to each other," Student Body President Justin Seo said.

But that wasn't the reason everyone came out.

"It was also supposed to make a political statement that we do need to have stricter gun control because people should not have that easy of an access to get guns," senior Elizabeth Howell said. "And I don't think that's the part that we covered here."

"I was under the impression it would be 17 minutes of silence — 17 victims, a minute per victim," junior Hannah Hatcher added. "That's not exactly what we got, and I don't see a reason why we shouldn't have."

So Hatcher and four of her classmates stayed back after everyone else had left, fulfilling all 17 minutes in silence.

"They didn't reprimand us for doing this, and I'm very proud to be a part of a school that does that," said senior Chase Graham, another member of the group that stayed behind.

Law enforcement was there for the walkout for school and student safety, and no one was forced back inside.

But when students returned to the classroom, they discussed ways to make a difference in their own school.

In one senior class, students brainstormed "#WhatsYour17," 17 ways to create a positive environment at LCHS, including writing a caring card to a teacher and sitting with someone eating by themselves at lunch.

But for some students, the meaning of Wednesday came not in the classroom but during those 17 minutes in the cold.

"It's heartbreaking that this is something that we have to do as students, that we have to take time out of our classes, and our education should be our focus, but we're protesting guns because we fear a shooting that much," Hatcher said.

As for Graham, the last student who returned to class, he believes he made those minutes count.

"I feel like I'm making a difference," he said. "That's what we're moving towards, making a difference."

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