OAK RIDGE, Tenn. - Students at Oak Ridge High School staged a walkout Thursday over school safety and gun violence following the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that killed 14 students, a teacher and two other staff members.
Dozens of students gathered outside the entrance of the high school, chanting "How many kids are dying today?" and "Keep us safe before it's too late."
The walkout was planned by students in a message sent to other students asking them to walk out of class to "protest till things are the way they should be."
"Please don't be scared to speak out, this is what has to happen," the post said. "Just make signs and posters #stop the violence and let's speak out, youth are losing lives out here."
School leaders supported the students' right to speak out.
"You know, I think one of the goals at this school, is you want to have an educated citizenry. That is one of our main goals in public education, and I think it's great when our students have the opportunity to exercise their rights in a great democracy like the one that we have. So I'm proud of them for having the courage to do that," said principal Martin McDonald.
The walkout follows one that happened at Lenoir City High School on Tuesday to address gun violence and school shootings.
Students there said they hoped schools would do something to address their security.
"Something small ... like we put in a new way for us to get in the doors, or protocol or something that helps us get to where we're going," Lenoir City junior Ashley Boser said. "It's not always about long term, it's what can you do to make people feel safe right now."
The walkouts are a way for students to express their frustrations, said Jon Shefner, head of the University of Tennessee Department of Sociology.
"The whole logic, the whole idea, of these kind of strategies is to disrupt business as usual. And that's really where the power lies. They can disrupt business as usual. So walking out of a school is by definition disruptive," he said.
"This kind of dramatic action makes it even clearer that the victims of Parkland and other places are fed up and they have no other way to say it than disrupt."