Hundreds of Lompoc-area students walked out of their classrooms Wednesday morning for peaceful demonstrations that carried a united theme: Enough is enough when it comes to gun violence.
The Lompoc students were among tens of thousands around the nation who participated in National Walkout Day, a campaign for students to show their support for tighter gun controls and advocate for peace at schools. The timing of the rallies was significant: They were held on the one-month anniversary of the mass shooting at Florida’s Stoneman Douglas High School, and most of them lasted 17 minutes, meant to represent the 17 victims who were killed in that Valentine’s Day shooting.
At Cabrillo High School, at least a few hundred students participated in the 10 a.m. rally, which took place at the main flagpole in front of the Vandenberg Village campus. Several of the students held signs — which included phrases such as “Protect People Not Guns,” “Are Our Lives Worth Your Guns?” and “Thoughts and Prayers Don’t Save Us But Gun Reforms Do!” — as the group reflected on the Florida shooting, then took turns reading brief biographies of the students who were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Cabrillo senior Isabella Tyler, who helped organize the event along with fellow senior Rylee Broach, encouraged her schoolmates to help affect change locally as they continue to push for change globally.
“We need to take action,” Tyler told the group of students. “Our march will mean nothing if we do not continue to do our part. There are people in this world hurting, and many of them are at our school. We, as a school body, need to reach out and help these people.
“Our school needs more leaders that are willing to lead with compassion and kindness,” she added. “Find the people who are hurting and be their light. Continue to be the change.”
Afterward, the students went en masse to a patio area near the cafeteria for a vigil, which included photos and candles, in remembrance of several school shooting victims. Cabrillo Principal Sue Pettis would not allow media into that portion of the walkout.
Broach said afterward that she and Tyler were inspired by the movement that was started last month by the survivors of the Florida shooting. Many of those students have been at the forefront of gun control and school safety discussions in the aftermath of the massacre, which took place in the South Florida city of Parkland.
"We knew the students from Parkland were starting something," Broach said. "We didn't want to just sit around and do nothing and be a part of the problem. We wanted to spread awareness around our campus."
Cabrillo wasn't the only Lompoc Valley campus that joined the effort.
At Lompoc High School, a group of about 450 students gathered in a grassy area in front of the school’s main office and also held a peaceful demonstration. At that gathering, a student played a saxophone solo in remembrance of school shooting victims.
A brief walkout also took place at Lompoc Valley Middle School on Wednesday morning.
Tyler said after the Cabrillo demonstration that she believes Wednesday's activities were the "first step" toward the overall goal of eradicating gun violence at schools.
"We just wanted to spread positivity and show people they aren't alone," she said.
John Karbula, an assistant superintendent and spokesperson for Lompoc Unified School District, said district administrators were “very proud” of the way that students and staff handled the situation.
“This is an issue of real importance to our students, and to all of us, as well,” he said. “Our students conducted themselves with dignity and grace. They expressed themselves with maturity and poise. The future is in good hands with these young people.”