While students at schools across the region and country did walk out of school Wednesday morning, that was not the case at one Saratoga County district. Matt Hunter reports from Schuylerville.
SCHUYLERVILLE, N.Y. – Along with all of her peers, Schuylerville High School senior Kes Otto was told Tuesday that anyone who chose to leave class without permission as part of Wednesday's nationwide student walkout would face discipline.
“I was very disappointed, and I was also just mad because it was something that I wanted to do," Otto said as she was returning to school from a doctor’s appointment Wednesday morning. “It’s stifling student rights when we are trying to make a difference in this world that we are going to be the next leaders of.”
“I wouldn’t say the walkout wasn’t allowed,” said middle school principal Katie Ellsworth. “Our students do not shed their constitutional rights at the door.”
Ellsworth says the decision to promise a form of detention to any student who left class came down to remaining consistent with the school's code of conduct and safety.
“We didn’t really want them to walk outside of the building,” Ellsworth said late Wednesday morning. “They have the right to do that, but we gave them an alternative location that we provided for their safety while they were there.”
The alternative walkout location was the auditorium, where a district spokesperson says 38 high school and two middle school students held a moment of silence at 10 a.m. Meant to protest gun violence, the gathering lasted 17 minutes -- one for each victim in last month's Parkland, Fla., massacre.
“This should never happen,” said Otto, who was not back at school in time to participate in the walkout. “No student should walk into school and feel unsafe that something could happen like that."
While the lockout was going on behind closed doors, faculty blocked the entrance of the campus, angering some parents like Robyn Bortle, who wanted to show support to the students.
“I got turned down and not allowed on the campus right now; kids are not allowed out," Bortle said. “I think they are doing their best to keep kids safe, but they’re also not giving them a voice to speak up for themselves.”
Despite events not going as planned, students feel their message was heard.
"It is not as powerful, I think, as a school walkout, but it is at least showing that we are trying something,” Otto said.
Instead of facing a normal detention, the 40 students who did walk out of class and go to the auditorium Wednesday morning were forced to participate in an after-school discussion about school safety and gun violence.