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Upstate Students Walk Out Of Classrooms To Protest Gun Violence

A brother and sister stand outside Ithaca High School.

ITHACA, NY (WSKG) - Hundreds of Ithaca High School students walked out of school at 10:00am to raise awareness about the effects of gun violence. They invited parents, teachers and community members to join them for 17 minutes, one minute for each victim of the Parkland, Florida shooting one month ago.

One person held a sign in red marker that said "Justice for Every Victim." Another person held their fist in the air. Most everyone stood silent.

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About ten miles away, over in Newfield, Lena Kennell, a sophomore at Newfield High School, and her friend Caitlin Howell, a senior, organized a walkout that Kennell said, was "by the students and for the students."

"When one student is killed, it hits the whole student body. It could have been any of us," said Kennell.

She feels fed up with the number of school shootings and that lawmakers have not passed any policies that will make schools safer.

Kennell thinks it's important for people to have firearms to defend their homes, but she doesn't think people should be allowed to own semi-automatic weapons or bump stocks.

At the same time, she wants the discussion to move beyond gun control, to include mental health and education funding.

School administrators embraced the protests to varying degrees.

Rather than walkouts, some schools, like Horseheads tried to incorporate the students' sentiment into walk-ins. They organized assemblies and student speeches along with a moment of silence for victims of school shootings.

In Vestal, the principal challenged students to reach out to people they don't normally hang out with, do acts of kindness, and sit with other students at lunch outside their friend group.

Others, like Maine-Endwell, told their students they would be in violation of the school code of conduct if they participated in a walkout.