50-plus FHS students show solidarity for high school shooting victims

More than 50 Farragut High School students walked out of school Friday with a mission to honor victims of school violence and lead a movement of change.

The FHS event was part of the planned National School Walkout April 20, which was held on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School, Colorado, shooting that left 15 students dead.

Junior Karlyn Simcox organized the FHS event, and said she had worked with a small group of fellow students “for about a month” on planning and coordination. They relied on social media and word of mouth to rally fellow participans to meet at the flagpole in front of the school under #farragutattheflagpole on Twitter.

Simcox estimated there were “between 50 and 100 FHS students” who participated in the walkout.

April 20 was the second student-led school walkout since the most recent large-scale mass school shooting, which occurred Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, leaving 17 students dead.

“Really, (the issue of gun violence in schools) goes back to Sandy Hook and Columbine, and most recently, Parkland,” Simcox said.

“(Officials) just assumed they could put a Band-Aid on the problem, but (incidents) are still occurring, and I don’t think it is a coincidence that … were are seeing (instances) of increasingly greater magnitude.

“It is always in the back of everyone’s mind (that a shooting could occur at their school), and at least are aware that others are in the same situation, too," she added.

“This is a rising epidemic, and we want to unite the community. And what better place to start than at Farragut High School.”

The first national school walkout was scheduled for March 14, on the one-month anniversary of the Florida tragedy, but was during Spring Break for Knox County students, which prevented them from participating, Simcox said.

Though all shooting victims of school violence were remembered April 20, Simcox said both walkouts consisted of 17 minutes of silence in honor of the 17 who died in Parkland.

In encouraging her fellow students to participate, Simcox wrote a memo of information she shared on both Twitter and Instagram, and said the planned walkout was “an attempt to portray Farragut as a school that truly is passionate about what occurs inside and outside of it … this is in no way a call to arms, but instead a call to reconsider the way in which we portray those arms.”

She praised the diversity of the students who participated, noting a variety of religious, cultural and political backgrounds.

“It was pretty incredible,” she said Sunday, and had remarked earlier on her Twitter account that “I (was) humbled by the volume and sincerity of those at the flagpole on Friday.”

Daniel Choo, fellow supporter and student, remarked on his own Twitter account that “I was at first doubtful, afraid kids would not take it seriously and only do it to get out of class.

“But every single kid who stood out there was completely silent. Not a single noise was uttered in the span of the 17 minutes," he added. "Which goes to prove further that (regardless of potential consequences), this is a serious issue that we care about and want heard.”

“Overall the movement is a bipartisan one,” Simcox said. “There are a lot angles to it and we see it as a cooperative effort.

“It is (also) our hope that other schools will join us.”

She said one of the next focus areas will be advocating voter registration.

“We want to encourage (that) and voter education,” she said. “It is hard to say what the concrete next step will be … because of the diversity of the students, and the issue.”

Simcox said she had the blessings of her parents for her part in Friday’s walkout.

“My parents are very supportive of me and my efforts,” she said. “(They see that) students have a unique perspective.

“Students have a loud voice — we are able to come together and make a difference.”

Students in several other Knox County high schools chose to walk out of class Friday, including Knoxville Central, Knoxville West and L&N Stem Academy.

Carly Harrington, director of Public Affairs for Knox County Schools, spoke on behalf of superintendent Bob Thomas in stating, “We understand this is a national movement that is important to many people.

“Knox County Schools supports its students right to peaceful assembly and free expression.”