LUMBERTON — The leader of Robeson County public schools responded Wednesday to a planned student protest to call for stricter gun control and increased mental health services with an organized event aimed at supporting the ideal of violence-free schools and communities.
“When I arrived to Lumberton High School this morning I worked with school administrators and SROs (School Resource Officers) to modify the school day to allow for the students to express themselves freely and not face disciplinary action or actions,” interim Superintendent Shanita Wooten said via email.
Students trickled out of Lumberton High School about 11:30 a.m., shortly after an announcement from Principal Larry Obeda.
Lumberton High senior Salvatore Head, who relocated 10 years ago to Lumberton from Parkland, Fla., where 17 people where shot to death Feb. 14, said the walkout didn’t last more than 10 minutes.
“The principal talked about the shooting in Florida. He said out of respect and honor, the alarm will ring and all students can walk out,” he said.
More needs to be done, he said.
“It’s needed. I don’t really know how,” Head said. “I don’t think that something like that would happen here, but it’s possible.”
A text sent to Wooten early Wednesday morning from Obeda contained a note written by a student that read: “Walkout at noon and to front of school. We are protesting against gun violence, so we can feel safe in our school and keep getting the education we need without being scared of getting shot. Every voice matters. #Share.”
“On the afternoon of Feb. 14, 17 people lost their lives to an intruder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. To honor our fallen colleagues and classmates, we will conduct our monthly fire drill and use this in support of the ‘Walk-Out Movement.’ We as a school, SROs and our staff are all in support of this movement. We are Lumberton School Pirates. We stand as one. Teachers and staff will participate to ensure your safety. Thank you for thinking of others. We all want to work and learn in a safe environment,” Obeda said over the intercom.
Drew Drake, also a Lumberton High senior, said the walkout was a good gesture to the people suffering in Florida.
“I think it was a good way to show solidarity to the people in Florida,” she said.
She is fearful, especially after she saw a video of a 4-year-old girl saying she wanted light-up shoes so if there is a school shooting and she has to run, her parents will find her, Drake said.
“That right there shows they are scared,” she said. “When you hear a fire alarm, you don’t know if it’s for real. Is someone waiting to shoot us?”
Rumors that students would walk out at noon Wednesday prompted Wooten to stay at Lumberton High after the organized event ended.
“I remained at the school for the remainder of the day to provide support and/or guidance,” she said. “All three assistant superintendents were present either during the walkout or after to assist.”
A text sent to Wooten Tuesday from Fairmont High School Principal Ronald Kent Prater contained a message to students about a future walkout.
It read, “FEB. 23rd, 2018. Attention all FHS students, at the 1 o’clock ATTENTION ALL FHS STUDENTS, AT 1 OCLOCK BELL FRIDAY, WALK OUT AND SURROUND THE BUILDING TO PROTEST GUN VIOLENCE! WEAR ORANGE! REPOST”
“Lumberton was the only school who contacted me directly about a walkout today,” Wooten said Wednesday. “FHS contacted me yesterday about a walkout this Friday.”
Reach Annick Joseph by calling 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected] or Facebook Annick MultiMedia Journalist.