Rock Bridge walkout set for Wednesday in response to school shootings

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COLUMBIA – Some Rock Bridge High School students are planning to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday in solidarity with the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School shooting. Other Columbia high school students are planning to participate as well.

“Part of it is because this could happen to us, it’s been happening to literally people all over the country and I think we kind of felt inspired because the victims of Sandy Hook were really too young to stand up the way the Stoneman Douglass victims have,” said Saly Seye, a freshman at RBHS.

She heard about the walkout through an anonymous Instagram profile that surfaced recently urging students to participate. The profile has about 200 followers. 

“I think that it really sucks to have to come to school and be scared that you could die at any moment because of someone coming in and killing people in a matter of minutes,” said Lee Cornelison, a fellow RBHS freshman.

Cornelison said there is strength in numbers. She expects over 300 students to join in the walkout. 

“People like to think that they can be that one person on their own that can hold everything up and can make that change. That’s not necessarily the case,” Cornelison said. “It’s important to show that there’s a multitude of us and that we need to be taken seriously.”

Columbia Public Schools is aware of the proposed walkouts Wednesday and said it is taking steps to protect students.

“We’ll be taking our cues from students. We do have a plan in place,” CPS community relations director Michelle Baumstark said. “We are working with our buildings in order to be able to execute that plan. Really, education is our purpose. We want students to be at school, but should a walkout take place, safety will be our first priority.”

Baumstark said CPS sent a reminder to its staff to remind them of their role in the walkouts. She said, as public government employees staff they're not allowed to participate in any way while fulfilling professional roles and duties.

Students are able to protest, but they could see some backlash depending on the events that occur on Wednesday.

“Students have a first amendment right to free speech, however that right cannot impede on what’s going on in the educational environment, so if it is disruptive to the educational environment there are consequences for that,” Baumstark said. “We’ll address that depending on what occurs that day, and we’ll have to take our cues from students.”

Cornelison said she plans to participate no matter what.

“I would still 100 percent walkout because I’m not afraid of a little trouble if it keeps us from potentially dying in the future,” Cornelison said. 

Seye said she doesn’t know what she will do if disciplinary actions are taken against her, but her convictions remain.

“Even though me walking out won’t suddenly ban AR-15’s. I think that it sends a message,” Seye said. "I think that when a lot of people are doing it, it sends a message that we are not putting up with this anymore.”

Cornelison said she is participating because, for her, inaction isn’t an option.

“I think it’s the moral sense of it feels right. It feels like if I wasn’t doing it something would be wrong. I feel like there is no way to not be involved for me, because it’s just common sense to be involved at this point,” Cornelison said.

The walkout is planned for 10 a.m. Wednesday and will last for at least 17 minutes, one minute for each student killed in Florida. There are also plans for a rally outside of RBHS after the 17-minute walkout.