The article you’re about to read is from our reporters doing their important work — investigating, researching, and writing their stories. We want to provide informative and inspirational stories that connect you to the people, issues and opportunities within our community. Journalism requires lots of resources. Today, our business model has been interrupted by the pandemic; the vast majority of our advertisers’ businesses have been impacted. That’s why The Capistrano Dispatch is now turning to you for financial support. Learn more about our new Insider’s program here. Thank you.

By Emily Rasmussen

Nearly 1,000 students at San Juan Hills High School (SJHHS) participated in a national school walkout on Wednesday, March 14 to protest gun violence and to honor the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that happened one month ago.

Almost half of the 2,000-plus students at SJHHS walked out of class at 10 a.m. for the demonstration, with many students sporting orange shirts—the color of the gun-control movement—and some students wearing shirts supporting the National Rifle Association (NRA). The students gathered in the quad area of the San Jan Capistrano high school for the 17-minute demonstration, a minute for each victim.

“We will finally be the generation that says ‘never again,'” Olivia Fu, SJHHS student and walkout organizer, said to the crowd of students.

The demonstration also featured 17 empty desks as a memorial to the 17 victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas students and educators who were killed on Feb 14. Students walked orange roses to the empty-desk memorial, 17 flowers in honor of every victim, and placed each flower next to a photo and small biography of every victim. During the demonstration, some students were in tears, holding each other for support.

Photo Gallery

After a moment of silence where students in the crowd linked arms in solidarity, Fu, 18, and Kate Finman, 17, encouraged students to contact local representatives, including Rep. Darrell Issa, to ask for change.

“Regardless of what you think the change needs to be, we’re all out here because change needs to happen,” Finman said.

SJHHS senior Kyle Copley, 18, was one of the students who carried flowers to the Parkland, Florida victim memorial and echoed Finman’s remarks.

“We are standing in unison and sending a message to Congress for change, it doesn’t matter what the change is but there needs to be some legislation to remedy the situation. The fact that there’s been so many school shootings this year is just unacceptable. It can’t get any worse than this,” said Copley, wearing an orange shirt that read ‘We are students. We are change.’

SJHHS senior Joe Kitaen, wearing a black shirt that expresses support of the Second Amendment but does not mention the NRA, also said that change needs to be made. Kitaen, 18, thought the NRA shirts were too provocative for him, but he does support some of those student’s ideas, including giving teachers the choice to arm themselves if they want to.

“First and foremost, I’m honoring the 17 students and teachers who lost their lives, it’s tragic. Change is necessary, it’s something that needs to happen,” Kitaen said, adding that he believes having a police officer at every school would help with safety as well. “I think these are the ways to ensure something like this never happens again. This is my form of change.”

Fu and Finman also noted that throughout this week they are asking students to register and preregister to vote. So far, they have gathered 300-plus students to sign up and expect more than 500 by the end of the week.

Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Superintendent Kirsten Vital, among other CUSD representatives, attended the demonstration. Two Orange County Sheriff’s Department deputies stood nearby for safety, joining the high school’s school resource officer, who is armed.

CUSD will have a presentation on school safety at its board of trustees meeting at 7 p.m. on March 14 at 33122 Valle Road, San Juan Capistrano.

Trustworthy, accurate and reliable local news stories are more important now than ever. Support our newsroom by making a contribution and becoming a subscribing member today.

About The Author Capo Dispatch

comments (0)

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>