Hundreds of Texas City High School students, some holding signs bearing the names of young people gunned down at a Florida school, attended an anti-violence assembly Friday focused on addressing campus safety.
The school’s student Political Activism Club organized the event at Stingaree Stadium and administrators allowed students to leave class for 30 minutes to attend. Students were not required to participate in the assembly and could stay inside the school building if they chose.
The club organized the assembly to show unity with school shooting victims, said Jaeden Johnson, president of the club and a senior at the school.
“The idea behind our assembly is to empathize and stand in solidarity with school shooting victims across the nation, and to ensure that the issue of school safety does not fade from national attention,” Johnson said. “We are thoroughly aware that there is a problem with violence in schools throughout the country.”
The administration had been wise to facilitate the student-run event, Johnson said.
“Instead of suppressing our voices and keeping this event from happening, they are supporting our right to speak and assemble by providing a space for us to do so safely,” he said.
The school’s assembly, inspired by a Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 14 students and three staff members dead, coincided with events across the nation in which students walked out of schools to protest gun violence.
By sanctioning the event, the school wanted to avoid chaos and danger to students who might walk out in the streets, officials said.
Administration officials coordinated the event with students to ensure safety, said Melissa Tortorici, a spokeswoman for Texas City Independent School District.
“Students did a good job, were well-spoken and very passionate,” Tortorici said. “Students were very respectful.”
The event was neither liberal nor conservative in tone, but a means in which students could feel powerful, Texas City High School student Isabela Johnston said.
“This was a cry for us to put our politics aside,” Johnston said. “Schools should be a haven for learning, not a battleground.”
Although the assembly had no particular liberal nor conservative agenda, some parents who were against the assembly threatened to vote against the district’s $136.1 million proposed bond issue in May.
Student demonstrations have generated concern and some anger among people who fear the loss of Second Amendment rights that might come from gun-control measures.
The assembly issue became heated enough on the school district’s Facebook page that officials on Thursday posted guidelines about proper etiquette when posting comments.
But assembly events are meant to bridge the gap between groups of people, not divide the community, Johnson said.
“If you leave here with nothing else, leave knowing your actions matter,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to let students know that their actions matter and encourage them to do more in promoting the welfare of their school and community.”