First came the news that a shooter opened fire at Santa Fe High School, killing 10 and leaving more than a dozen wounded.
Not three days later, the news hit even closer to home for a group of League City Intermediate School students.
“Santa Fe woke a lot of people up,” said Abigail Harris, an eighth-grade student. “In planning this event, we wanted to honor the victims. We had no idea our own school would experience such hysteria so shortly after.”
More than 20 students at the Clear Creek Independent School District campus joined Harris in walking out of class Wednesday to raise awareness about mass shootings.
Students were planning Wednesday’s walkout since Friday’s shooting in Santa Fe, but the intermediate school itself made headlines Monday after a student brought an unloaded gun to school and was arrested.
The student is in custody of the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office, district officials said.
Another student reported the gun to school authorities. The event occurred sometime before 10 a.m., district officials said.
“My grandchild texted me that someone had a gun at school and asked me to come get them because they were scared,” said Carla Schaffer, who watched Wednesday’s walkout.
Students should have the right to voice their opinions, but leaving school might not be the best way of doing that, Schaffer said.
Schaffer’s grandchild did not attend Wednesday’s walkout, she said.
Other parents watching Wednesday’s walkout were supportive of the students’ decision.
“Absolutely,” said Karrie Niedermaier, the parent of a 13-year-old student. “Civic engagement is huge. Kids taking things into their own will make everything safer.”
District administration did not endorse Wednesday’s walkout, according to a statement released by Superintendent Greg Smith.
“We will not be organizing or endorsing a walkout of our 44 schools,” Smith said. “This is a matter of student safety.”
District officials asked students to show support for Santa Fe by wearing green and gold to school, Smith said.
Students Wednesday shared their feelings about school safety and Harris asked them to write to legislators before school staff showed up to ask them to go back inside.
Several students said they appreciated and respected the district administration, but that they were hoping their display would go beyond just the district.
Just wearing green and gold isn’t making enough of a difference, several students said.
“They were not reprimanded for walking out,” said Elaina Polsen, spokeswoman for the district. “However, they wouldn’t go inside after being asked several times, so we asked their parents to come get them.”
One of Wednesday’s walkout organizers didn’t actually make it to the demonstration.
Natalie Zavora, an eighth-grader, helped organize the event because students are genuinely worried about their safety at school, she said.
“I was crying and upset in the library and they walked me to the office,” she said, when asked why she wasn’t there.
League City Intermediate School students weren’t the only group in Galveston County to participate in a walkout.
More than 30 students participated Wednesday in a protest at Dickinson High School, 3800 Baker Drive in Dickinson.
The students walked out of class and chose to lay down inside the school around a statue of the school’s alligator mascot, Big Al.
“It was outstanding,” junior Lydia Swartz, 17, said. “We were surrounded by administrators. We didn’t get in any trouble, either.”
Other students who witnessed the prone protest showed support, Swartz said.
“We got a big applause when we stood up,” she said.
The school officials, however, did not applaud, Swartz said.
She lost a family friend in the Santa Fe shooting, Glenda Ann Perkins, who was a substitute teacher at the high school.
Swartz and her friends participated to draw attention to a need for gun-law reform, she said.
“Prayers are immensely appreciated, but change is needed,” she said.
The demonstration lasted about 10 minutes and the school went back to normal, district officials said.
Authorities have charged Dimitrios Pagourtzis, 17, a junior at the high school, in connection with Friday’s shooting.
Pagourtzis is being held without bond at the Galveston County Jail on a capital murder charge and a charge of aggravated assault of a peace officer, according to court records.