After the Parkland shooting and the subsequent call for a nationwide walkout, South Pasadena middle schoolers knew they wanted to participate somehow. The 6th graders called a meeting which was led by a few individuals including Keeran Murray who says, “we wanted to bring awareness to this issue.” It was decided that the students who wished to participate would walk out of their classrooms at 10am and gather to peacefully protest in the quad.
And so, on this sunny Wednesday morning at 10am, South Pasadena Middle School students began filing out of their classrooms and gathering on the quad which is located in the center of the school. What looked to be close to 300 students, some carrying handmade signs, all sat calmly in the center of the quad.
Then, Murray tells us, a small group of 8th graders simply stood up and started walking towards the entrance gates on Fair Oaks Avenue and then, one by one, the other students got up and began following them to the front of the school.
It was a bold move but one they were inspired to make even though they were told they wouldn’t be punished if they remained on school grounds. They seemed to be quite aware of what they were doing and they felt proud. Some students linked arms or held hands or held up their signs as they walked through the gates and headed for the sidewalk.
Some kids seemed a little apprehensive to leave the school grounds but once the high school students approached, many kids joined them in the walk up Fair Oaks toward Monterey. Many students turned left on Monterey and joined the high school group while others turned right and then headed south on Marengo Avenue where several of their parents were linking arms in solidarity in front of Marengo Elementary. Those parents were actually shocked and inspired to see hundreds of what they first thought were the high schoolers but soon realized were their own middle schoolers, coming down Marengo.
By this point the students were chanting with arms raised, seeming not to care what repercussions might be waiting for them. The teachers and staff were supportive and remained calm when the students left campus, with several staff and Principal Kubela walking near the students to insure their safety.
It was emotional for those observing as cars honked encouragement along Fair Oaks Avenue and neighbors cheered as they walked through the neighborhood. Said Murray of the spontaneous walk off school grounds, “it felt good. I’m happy we walked and made a bigger statement.”
When asked why he walked, 7th grader Mason Fleming summed it up saying, “I felt compelled to walk out because I don’t want anyone to be afraid to go to school. School is a place to learn about the world and not a place to be afraid.” He went on to say, “I felt like all the students were all coming together for a common cause with all the other students across the country. That was a powerful moment.”