Thomas McKean High School students hold protest inside to honor the victims of the Parkland shooting

While a number of schools in the Red Clay Consolidated and Christina school districts held traditional “walk-outs” on March 14, the students at Thomas McKean High School in Pike Creek opted for a more solemn approach.

Although roughly three-quarters of the student body left class for 17 minutes – one minute each for the victims of the shootings last month in Parkland, Florida – rather than walk the perimeter of the school, the students convened in the gymnasium as the names of the victims were called out, one each minute, by Principal Brian Mattix.

As Mattix announced the names, a student held up a corresponding sign as part of the ceremony, which found most of the attending students sitting in respectful silence.

“I was very proud of their response,” Mattix said. “You can never tell how the reaction will be when you get them all together, especially in a place where we traditionally hold pep rallies. But they were great. Teenagers never cease to impress me.”

The walkout was the second “protest” held at McKean, where previously around 30 students sat in the atrium of the school’s entrance for roughly an hour, in the days after the shooting.

Mattix said they worked closely with the students to find a way to peacefully protest, which lead to the decision to create and hold up the victims’ names.

Those signs, he added, will eventually be used in some form of permanent display in the school.

Freshman Jaden Smyth, who helped organize the walkout, said the day was an important one because despite the number of school shootings in recent years, no one single movement has emerged from the tragedies.

“We need to catch people’s eye – this has been going on for years,” Smyth said. “And no one has done something powerful enough to stop it.”

He added that while gun ownership cannot be stopped, regulation can and should be increased.

“High-powered guns should not be held in [private ownership,]” Smyth said. “[They] should be used for military use, not just to have in your house.”

While Smyth will be unable to attend the planned national summit against gun violence in Washington, DC, next month, fellow protest organizer Serenity Quesenberry, 15, is hoping her grandmother will be able to help make it to the event.

She also echoed Smyth’s statement that some altered form of gun control is necessary.

“They can definitely make it stricter,” she said.

During his closing remarks to the students, Mattix noted that hundreds of thousands of students across the country were part of this event, making it a historic moment for their generation.

“I hope later in life, you’re able to put this all in perspective,” Mattix said.