By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — One by one the students at Annapolis High School joined the thousands of other students nationwide honoring the victims of Stoneman Douglas High School by walking out of class March 14.
At 10 a.m., more than half of the school’s students left their classes and went to the football field carrying signs with the names of the 17 victims from Stoneman Douglas.
The almost 400 students of 700 total at the school remained silent for 17 minutes while wearing ribbons to spread awareness.
At O.W. Best Middle School, about 200 of the almost 600 students walked out of the building not to far from Annapolis.
About a month ago, the Annapolis student council began the process of planning the walkout just a day after the Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, Fla.
On Feb. 14, a former Stoneman Douglas High School student, Nikolas Cruz, 19, entered the building and began shooting students and staff, leaving 17 people dead.
The Annapolis student council members were sitting at a blood drive when they knew something had to be done. Students spoke with the administration and a mutual decision was made to participate in the walkout.
“I empathize with the parents and families of the Parkland victims and want to reflect the voices of the survivors who have made their voices heard,” Annapolis senior Tanner Bonner said. “With the walkout, we wanted to include everyone and make all students feel like they can participate to honor the shooting victims and still be comfortable.”
The walkout was organized as a way to honor the Stoneman victims, but one student, freshman Sadie Cox, made an unplanned political speech during the 17 minutes of silence.
Dearborn Heights District 7 Supt. Jennifer Mast held a community forum on Feb. 22 where she clarified that students not would be suspended if they participated in the walkout.
During that same meeting, parents suggested installing metal detectors at the school which would cost more that $5,000 each, not including staff to operate them.
An assembly was also organized by the student council on March 14 to inform their peers about mental health, bullying and the seriousness of a possible school shooting.
“After the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas, we asked ourselves, ‘What can we do?’” sophomore Aleksandra Kole said. “The walkout and assembly were a way to send a informative message to other students.”
The school and D7 administration worked with the students to allow for the walkout to take place by adjusting the finals week schedule and determine a route for the walkout.
“I’m so incredibly proud of our student council members for organizing this event based on the theme of honoring the lives that were lost in Parkland, Fla., last month,” Mast said. “Most of the students stayed respectful of that and did not make this about their individual political beliefs.”
A Dearborn Heights resident and preschooler parent Nicole Lairmore stood on the sidewalk across from Annapolis with a sign that read, “Your community supports you” as students walked back inside the school.
For the walkout, teachers talked among themselves to determine who would remain inside the building and who would go outside to supervise the walkout.
Police officers were onsite at the school to ensure the safety of the students who participated in the walkout.
Police also were at the school a couple weeks ago, when a threat was made which lead to discipline for the students involved.
D7 already has security protocols in place at each of its schools — including drills, locked exterior doors, and security guards — and has conducing scenario training with school staff since the beginning of the year.
“Staff at all schools have been training on what to do during an evacuation or how to barricade in the classroom,” Mast said. “Active shooter drills with students will start in the upcoming school year.”
Mast also said she is considering a full-time armed officer in every school if grants could fund the costs.
Other schools in Dearborn and Dearborn Heights that participated in walkouts were Dearborn, Edsel Ford, Fordson, and Crestwood high schools; Michael Berry Career Center; and Star International Academy.
Crestwood students walked to the football field and spelled out the hashtag #Enough to stand in solidarity with Stoneman Douglas students.
Fordson High School students laid 17 red roses on the football field honoring the 17 victims, while Divine Child High School students and staff participated in community prayer service at the school’s gym.
Students at Bryant, Stout and Woodworth middle schools exited their classrooms into the hallways where they stood silent for 17 seconds to honor the Parkland victims.
At University of Michigan-Dearborn, 150 students walked out of classes to participate in the nationwide demonstration.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])