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Students say #enough
Monroe High School students walk out of classes at 10 a.m. March 14 in support of a nationwide protest against gun violence and in support of 14 students and three teachers who died in a mass school shooting one month ago in Parkland, Florida. Nearly 100 students participated. (Times photo: Marissa Weiher)
MONROE - Educators couldn't identify a formal plan, and the large group of Monroe High School students lacked a clear leader, but that didn't stop them from walking out of the front doors at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

It began with three. Then came a handful more. Soon nearly 100 students had flooded out of the doors, marching onto the sidewalk. They walked in solidarity with other students across the country, protesting violence in schools and showing support of the 17 people killed at the hands of an armed man at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, exactly a month prior to the date of the protest.

Senior Cheyenne Kraft was one of the first students out of the building. She and classmate Bailey Hoesly said they wanted to show support for those who died. Kraft and fellow senior Allison O'Brien said it felt like there was more awareness of mass shootings than in the past.

"It was a bunch of kids, and that always draws more attention than anything else," Kraft said.

O'Brien said "just more regulation" was the goal, noting the reaction to this most recent shooting is different than in the past.

"There's a lot more social media and you see more footage," O'Brien said. "That's made a big difference for me, I think."

Fellow senior Hunter Ward was echoed by classmate Drake Ingold when he said the protests might help to make a change to current laws.

"I think we need to have more regulation on gun control," Ward said, adding that more young people seemed to be speaking out about the issue.

Ingold said he wanted to be part of a demonstration to show support "for all of the families and people" affected by the shooting in Florida as a way to help them after the tragedy.

Standing outside the high school, Monroe District Administrator Rick Waski said he was unsure how many students would take part but noted a group consisting of students from every grade returning to the building was roughly one-seventh of high school enrollment.

"I wasn't exactly sure what kind of turnout we were going to have," Waski said. "Ultimately, this is the students' individual right to express themselves. We didn't condone, nor are we going to discipline, students who participated."

He added that any students not back in class by the end of the hour would receive an unexcused absence.

As the students were milling around outside of the school, a red vehicle drove by, sounding a quick honk in solidarity. A sign displayed on the passenger side read "Keep Our Kids Safe." The driver was Monroe native Tina Carlson, who said she was proud to see the group, including her 15-year-old son, Quinton, exhibiting their First Amendment rights by asking their elders to protect their safety in effective ways.

"He's kind of what inspired me to take this a step forward," Carlson said about her son, who has high-functioning autism, expressing a desire to take part.

She said his request led to a comprehensive discussion about the topic of mass shootings and other issues Quinton sees on the news each day. Carlson said when she began her career as a psychologist in 2003, no one needed to discuss mass murder in schools and other public places with teenagers.

"It literally makes me cry that this is happening," Carlson said. "Our kids shouldn't have to die to go to school."