'I wanted to do a walkout:' Students compromise with administration over walkout

St. James High School students participated in a walkout in honor of the shooting victims of Stoneman Douglas High School in  Parkand , FL.
St. James High School students participated in a walkout in honor of the shooting victims of Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkand , FL. jbell@thesunnews.com

Horry and Georgetown county schools on Wednesday participated in the National School Walkout at 10 a.m. — except they weren’t allowed outside.

In Georgetown County, students gathered in auditoriums and school gymnasiums, said Georgetown County School District spokesperson Ray White.

In Horry County, individual schools were allowed to determine how they would honor the victims of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting, as long as they didn't go outside the building.

At Horry County Schools' St. James High School, students gathered in the hallways to read the names of the 17 students killed and hold a 17-second moment of silence. The voluntary gathering lasted 17 minutes.

“Like many other schools in the country, I wanted to do a walkout but I understood the safety precaution about the sitting duck, so I think we were able to come to a compromise on what would be the best decision for the school and for student safety,” said 17 year-old senior Ryan Thompson, who organized the moment of silence at St. James High School.

The moment of silence at St. James on Wednesday was in conjunction with the national school walkout to protest gun violence and remember the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14. Nikolas Cruz, 19, is accused of killing the students.

“[Principal Vann] Pennell let me know about what [Superintendent] Dr. [Rick] Maxey had said about students not being allowed to leave the building, so I would probably say it was more of a compromise with administration but it was a compromise with the full support from administration,” Thompson said. “They were extremely supportive of all of our ideas.”

On Monday night, the district announced that students would not be allowed outside the schools, citing safety concerns. Students who walked out would be subject to disciplinary action.

Thompson said he hoped the walkout would encourage more “common sense” gun regulation, such as increased background checks and licensing and show the younger generation that their voice matters.

“I feel like especially when it comes to voting, my generation has become very lackluster and doesn’t think that our political voice matters,” Thompson said. “I hope we realize that we’re going to be the next generation of voters, we’re going to be the next generation of change.”

Pennell said the 17-minute memorial gave him “chill bumps” and put tears in his eyes.

“I think the most amazing thing is these kids live in an ‘I’ society,” Pennell said. “It’s ‘I’ it’s ‘me’ it’s ‘now.’ But today … they put someone before them. I was especially proud of them.”

Senior class President Otez Myers, 18, said the idea of just walking out of school “didn’t sit well” with him.

“When I first heard about the news of walkouts, I wasn’t originally going to walk out just because the fact that there are people out there that were just going to skip class and not take this seriously,” Myers said.

Myers said he hopes the Parkland shooting causes people take to school shootings more seriously, and that kids realize that school shootings are "not the way to go," and "not the answer to everyone's problems.

"It’s not the first time," Myers said of the Parkland shooting. "Hopefully it will be the last, but somehow, probably not."

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian