More East Tennessee students are walking out of class this week in the wake of the school shooting in Florida and the ongoing conversation about safety at school.
In Knox County, students at Gresham Middle School staged a walkout at 10 a.m. Friday to "protest lack of action for gun violence, and lack of mental health services in schools."
School leaders did not allow the students to protest in front of the school because of safety reasons, but a 10News crew near campus could hear yelling and cheering from the school grounds.
Knox County Schools released a statement saying it was aware of the national call for students to show support for addressing gun violence and that the district would respect students' right to free speech "as long as it’s not disruptive to the learning environment."
At Powell High School, a student said 150-200 students walked out of class with the administration's approval. Video from Snapchat shows the students gathered on the football field, carrying signs and releasing orange balloons into the air as a memorial to the lives lost in the Florida shooting.
Nearly 100 students at West High School in Knox County held walked out of class. Around 12:15 p.m., though, students returned to class after a voice came over the loudspeaker telling students "your protest is over. Time to go back to class."
Students at Central High School also staged a brief walkout at 10 a.m Friday. About a dozen students did a quick lap around the school.
Friday morning, students at Clinton High School said they were walking 17 laps around the football field for the victims in Florida. "Being safe is our main priority," one of them said in a tweet to WBIR.
A Clinton High School student was one of three East Tennessee students charged on Thursday with making threats towards the school or other students.
Since the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida on February 14, at least nine teenage students in East Tennessee and Southeast Kentucky have been arrested for making threats.
"More than anything else, we wanted them to know that they’re cared about and cared for," said Dr. Caleb Tipton, principal at Clinton High School. "We weren’t here to discuss the second amendment rights. We were here to focus on an activity in memoriam of people who have lost their lives in schools. We want safe schools. We want to come to school without fear."
The walkout comes the day after a town hall meeting hosted by the Anderson County school system to talk to parents about their safety concerns.
This is not the first time students have led the charge for social change, but it is the first time in decades.
"Students have mobilized previously in anti-sweatshop mobilization, certainly in Vietnam time. This is something that we saw in 1964 with the freedom movement and students going down to help African Americans register to vote," said Dr. Tricia Bruce, an associate professor of sociology at Maryville College. "They have an environment where they can exchange ideas and start thinking about, what are we upset about? And this becomes a context where they can actually do something."
Lenoir City High School students were the first in East Tennessee to walk out of class on Wednesday, to share their fears about school security and to talk about ways to stop bullying at the school. Oak Ridge students walked out on Thursday.