As part of a larger national movement, Darien students at DHS stood up from their desks and walked out on school on Wednesday. The walk out lasted for 17 minutes, each minute honoring the lives of the 17 students and faculty who died in the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The walkout was first announced in early March, when a group of students from Darien joined students from other area schools to organize participation in the national event.

Katherine Lester, a member of the committee of students from a number of local schools who worked to organize the walkout, said, “It was amazing to see 600-700 kids all file out together,” and her brother Andrew, who took photos, thought it could have been as many as 900.

Committee members and students read biographies of the victims in the Parkland shooting. “We all ended with some slight variation of, ‘they were killed with an AR-15, enough is enough,’” Lester said. That was as political as any of the speeches got, save two, said Lester.

“There were two people who, against some of the wishes of others, but you can’t please everyone, made their speeches much more political than others. But it was nice to have all sides represented,” Lester said. At 10:17, there was a closing speech, and the students filed back into the building and returned to class.

“We did have a lot of freedom to say what we wanted to say, and some people thought it was too political, others than it wasn’t political enough, but overall, everyone was really pleased with how we focused on honoring the victims and calling attention to school safety,” Lester said of the walkout. Lester also said that she had a few friends who decided not to participate in the lockout, but it was never a point of contention.

“Everyone had the fight to walk out, and everyone respected each others decision,” Lester said.'

Reaction from Darien High School students:

“To me, the walkout resembled hope and unity. All the students at DHS came together and stood up for what they believe in and what needs to be changed. I have faith that our government will respond to our actions and make school a safer place” -senior, Marlene Dumas.
“It felt great to be a part of something that is bigger than me. I feel helpful and inspired. I hope change will come in the near future and the walkouts and protests held at  schools all over the country will be answered by our government” -freshmen Nicole Clarke.
“It is so important to stand up for what you believe in and it feels great when you are doing that with hundreds of kids your own age. I will never forget this day and I hope my fellow classmate don’t either” -senior Owen Stevens.

Superintendent Dr. Dan Brenner spoke about the walkout at the Wednesday night Board of Education meeting.

“I’m very pleased to report what I think was a very honorable day for our students,” Brenner said. With the walkout only lasting 17 minutes, it was not just an excuse for students to get up and go home, but much more than that. “They listened to their student colleagues speak about each of the students and adults who passed in Parkland,” Brenner said, adding that after the 17 minutes passed, students filed back into school, “in a very respectful way, and without incident.”

“The kids who organized this should feel very good about the activity,” Brenner said, “They did it in the most respectful of ways.” Brenner would thank the Darien Police for working to keep the campus safe and secure during the walkout, as parents, media, and anyone else who was not a student was not permitted onto the campus.

At Middlesex, there was a teachers “walk in”, in which teachers entered classes and programming was held to educate and discuss the issues surrounding school safety with middle school students.

There is a march in New York City on March 24th, and Lester says she will attend along with a group of other students from nearby schools that she has been in contact with. In Darien, another walkout is being planned for April 20th as part of a national movement which began with an online petition for action, now with over 250,000 signatures, from Ridgefield student Lane Murdock.

Photo creditS: Andrew Lester, Julia Clarke