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By Tom Ferrall
Staff Writer 

Fallbrook and Bonsall students walk out

 

Last updated 3/23/2018 at 3:34am

Daphne Warren photos

Bonsall High students, left to right, Lily Taylor, Hayley Ferree, Josh Sacks and Hannah Corso carry the banner they made for the victims of the Parkland, Florida, shooting during the walkout.

Students at Fallbrook Union High School and Bonsall High School joined fellow students across the county in walking out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. March 14 in a call for increased gun control and/or to remember the 17 people shot dead Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

"A lot of people went just for the victims but then a lot of people went for gun control, but I think that something we could all agree on was that something – regardless of what you think it is – needs to change because kids can't keep getting shot in school," said Tallvia Wray-Stergman, a senior at Fallbrook High.

Senior Frankie Billmeier, ASB president at Fallbrook High, said approximately 200 students (representing roughly 10 percent of the school's enrollment) walked out of classes and assembled in a section of the campus called the bowl.

"We gathered in the bowl for 17 minutes to have a moment of silence and to read off the names of the victims of the Parkland shooting," said Billmeier. "Afterwards, we all stayed and had conversations concerning the issues, discussing gun reform or talking about the students of the tragedy."

Billmeier and Wray-Stergman estimated that about 50 students voiced opposition to the gun restrictions – one student waved a "Don't Tread On Me" flag – but those students went silent and were respectful when student Jessica Denny read the names of the Parkland victims.

"We had a right to be out there, they had a right to be out there," said Wray-Stergman. "There were no problems."

The students returned promptly to their classes following the 17-minute action but discussions of the issues continued.

"People were talking about it all day, in all of our classes," said Wray-Stergman. "I think a lot of people were feeling very sad for the 17 that died. I know that I was. I was very emotional about it. We had discussions on what it (the walkout) was supposed to be about and on gun control and how people felt about it."

Some teachers joined the students at the assembly.

"Teachers were very supportive of it," said sophomore Nicole Dulin. "I had some teachers that were like, 'hey, you guys should really go out there, you should express your feelings, you should remember those 17 kids, you have a right to do this, so don't feel like you have to keep it in.'"

"That felt nice that they were interested in what we were doing," said Billmeier.

Fallbrook High principal David Farkas closed the campus to media and parents the morning of the walkout.

"In order to ensure safety and maintain the 17-minute time expectation, I decided to keep the campus closed," said Farkas. "Having no visitors also assisted our campus supervisors in focusing on our students rather than the school entrance and traffic flow."

Farkas said some teachers expressed opposition to having kids walk out of their classes.

"I understand the perspective of some to not allow students to participate in a protest during school hours without having consequences, however, because this was a walkout on a national scale, I decided to support all of our students, including giving them the option of participating in the 17-minute event or opting to stay in their third period classrooms," said Farkas.

Farkas was pleased with how the event went off.

"The walkout couldn't have went any better," said Farkas. "The students were incredibly respectful to each others' views and the entire area was completely quiet when the student leaders read the names of the 17 Florida victims. I'm so proud of our students and I'm happy we supported this learning experience."

Lee Fleming, principal of Bonsall High, said high school students and Sullivan Middle School students participated in the walkout and assembled in front of the high school in an area reserved for them. Bonsall High student Daphne Warren estimated that between the two schools, 80 students were in the area.

"The (high school) students walked out and they were completely silent for 17 minutes," said Fleming. "They did not speak. They stood there for 17 minutes, all facing the same direction and they had different signs. When the 17 minutes were up they peacefully went back to class and that was it. There was no disruption. They were very respectful. They sent their message and went back to class."

Fleming said she wanted to respect the views of all students on campus.

"I'm a educator, so my job is to make sure that if a student does choose to exercise their first amendment right, freedom of speech, that they can do it in a way that will not get in the way of another student's right to sit in class and learn," said Fleming. "My goal was to make sure that we really honored the voice of our students, both of those who were in favor of the walkout and those who were not.

Bonsall High freshman Sarah Hinely poses with her homemade poster as the walkout begins.

"So our solution was to make sure they had a separate space and that they wouldn't be disrupting students, but they would also be heard," continued Fleming. "This is a community that really values their second amendment rights and so we wanted to make sure that those who really don't believe in gun restriction didn't feel offended, and we also didn't want kids who wanted to take a stand about it feel like they couldn't do it."

Fleming didn't close the Bonsall High campus but she did have extra personnel from the school district office on hand for the event.

"We did have five adults who don't normally work on campus here just to make sure that the kids were safe," said Fleming. "It was our job to make sure everybody was safe and to protect their first amendment while also upholding the Education Code."

 

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