WHITESBORO – The walkout planned by students at Whitesboro High School for Tuesday afternoon has been moved inside by school officials.
Whitesboro junior Catherine Yankowski, 16, planned the walkout as a form of protest following a school shooting in Florida nearly two weeks ago that left 17 people dead. She was inspired by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida who have been speaking out about gun laws since a former student opened fire there with an AR-15 that he legally owned.
Just after 12 p.m. Tuesday, Shaun Kaleta, public relations assistant for the Whitesboro Central School District, sent NEWSChannel 2 the following statement:
“Based on the strong recommendation from law enforcement, any student who participates in the walkout will be asked to assemble in the high school auditorium and remain indoors for their safety. This is precautionary in nature only.”
NEWSChannel 2 crews will not be allowed into the school, and students tell us that school officials reminded them it is a “red zone,” meaning they are not allowed to use their cell phones, so no photos or video will be available.
" I think that was the whole purpose of putting us there, so we weren't allowed to," Samantha David, a senior and protestor said. "It definitely made it so that they could put their own spin on it. They could be in control, so it wasn't even really a protest, it was just them telling us what to do, as usual."
"I announced that it would be changing, so once we got downstairs, all the doors were locked and there were security guards anyway, so we didn't have a choice," Yankowski said.
Yankowski said she still felt as though their message was heard by school officials, along with their tribute to the Parkland shooting victims.
"They just made an announcement today that as of tomorrow, there are only going to be two entrances into the school for students, compared to the multiple that we have now," Yankowski said. "The entire group joined along, singing 'Imagine' by John Lennon. That was a very nice moment."
Yankowski said the support for her movement was mixed among the student body.
"It was definitely 50-50," Yankowski said. "A lot of students agreed with what our point was, but didn't necessarily agree with how we're doing it."
Many students chose to leave school early in the minutes leading up to the walkout.
On Monday afternoon, Whitesboro Central School District Superintendent Brian Bellair released a statement saying the district supported students’ right to freedom of speech, and that students who wanted to participate in the walkout would be allowed to do so.