Sympathies for those killed in Florida run high among local teenagers
■ By Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Editor
A nationwide walkout in response to the 17 people killed after a gunman used an AR-15 assault rifle to open fire at a Parkland, Florida high school Feb. 14 hit communities across the country last week and Hemet was no exception.
Hemet High School students participated in the walkout a few minutes after 10 a.m. on March 14. Several teachers walked with the students to the school’s football stadium to ensure their safety. Deputies from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department blocked off Stetson Avenue while the students crossed the street.
Once in the stadium, the students formed a circle on the football field with teachers and deputies watching from the sidelines, allowing the students to demonstrate. Several minutes later, the students gathered in the bleachers, holding signs and chanting.
One of the signs read, “Our government let our peers down. We won’t!” Hemet High students took several minutes of silence as students held up signs with the names of all 17 victims. The nationwide demonstrations lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in Parkland.
When multiple Hemet High students were asked before and during the demonstration if the school tried to block the walkout, the students said, yes. Some students even ditched their first period class so the school could not prohibit them from participating in the demonstration.
Hemet High School was the center of school threats following last month’s mass shooting. For the entire week following the Feb. 28 shooting threat at Hemet High, it had been reported by students and teachers that student attendance had dropped dramatically. A Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation revealed that a 16-year-old female Hemet High School student authored the threat and was booked into the Riverside County Juvenile Detention Center.
“It has almost been a month since the Parkland, Florida school tragedy, and it continues to weigh heavily on our hearts,” said HUSD Superintendent Christi Barrett in a video message to families on the district website. “It has left our schools, community, and nation heartbroken as we think about the many lives lost and the families that have been affected. During this time, a nationwide conversation about preventative safety measures has begun.
“Understandably, these important conversations can create emotional and political debates and there are calls for a school walkout nationwide on March 14 and April 20,” continued Barrett. “We want families to know that while students can exercise their freedom of speech rights, they cannot disrupt instruction. If a student chooses to leave campus for the demonstration period, regular absence and discipline procedures will apply. We understand that some students may want to participate in these demonstrations, while some may not. Our goal, as a district, is to ensure that all students feel safe, supported and respected as they grapple with these issues. Site staff are working with student leaders to develop alternative avenues in which students can express their viewpoints and engage in constructive dialogue while remaining on campus where we can ensure their safety,” she concluded on the action regarding demonstrations.
The 17 lives lost
Alyssa Alhadeff, 14
Scott Beigel, 35
Martin Duque Anguiano, 14
Nicholas Dworet, 17
Aaron Feis, 37
Jaime Guttenberg, 14
Chris Hixon, 49
Luke Hoyer, 15
Cara Loughran, 14
Gina Montalto, 14
Joaquin Oliver, 17
Alaina Petty, 14
Meadow Pollack, 18
Helena Ramsay, 17
Alex Schachter, 14
Carmen Schentrup, 16
Peter Wang, 15