JUNEAU, Alaska — A crowd of students and adult supporters rallied in front of the Alaska Capitol Wednesday to draw attention to school safety, one month after a deadly shooting at a Florida high school sparked a national debate on the issue and gun violence.
Students marched about a mile from their high school to the Capitol under dreary, drizzly skies, chanting and holding signs reading such things as “Enough” and “I’m Missing School Because 17 Are Missing The Rest Of Their Lives.” Seventeen died in the Florida shooting.
Across the country, students were holding walkouts in solidarity with those affected by the violence in Florida and to draw attention to school safety concerns.
Theo Houck, 17, said students have dealt with lockdowns and gone through active shooter drills. “The threat of a shooter in our schools has always been there, and it shouldn’t be, but we’re used to it. We’re numb to it,” he said in an interview.
He said he felt empowered by how the students affected by the shooting in Parkland, Florida, last month spoke out. He said he and other students felt they, too, have a voice.
The rally was attended by a number of state legislators, mainly Democrats, and by Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott. No elected leaders spoke.
“This is our time to listen,” Walker, an independent, told reporters.
In an interview Tuesday, Bianca Eagan, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School, said students want to know if they are safe in their classrooms. She cited concerns with school funding and available resources.
It’s a discussion that she said students have yet to have with school administrators. Students will see what their reaction to the march is and seek to advance the conversation after that, she said.
The Juneau School District said the rally was not school-sponsored or sanctioned but allowed parents who wished to do so to request that their kids be excused from class to participate. The district said students would not be disciplined for an act of peaceful protest.
Walker said he recently met with students in Anchorage to discuss their concerns. He said his administration is looking at steps that could be taken to improve school safety, including options that would not require legislation.
Houck, who will be able to vote this year, encouraged other teens who will be eligible to vote to register.
He said he was glad Walker came.
“I’m not going to let him let it go in one ear and out the other, and I don’t think anyone else here is either,” he said as he walked back toward school. “We are going to continue to show up, continue to write to our legislators, make sure that action does happen.”