XENIA — Nearly 400 Xenia High School students left class March 14 in observance of National Walkout Day.
Organized by students across the country, the walkout was staged as a one-month memorial to the 17 who lost their lives in a bloody Valentine’s Day rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. It began 10 a.m. and lasted 17 minutes, one minute for each victim.
Students quietly exited the school’s front doors, marched down the sidewalk and listened as student leaders read biographies of the 17 killed. Other students stayed in the front foyer or the main office and heard the same bios read over an intercom.
With a strong Xenia police presence and school administrators monitoring, the walkout remained peaceful and concluded without incident.
“Our kids here at Xenia High School never cease to amaze me,” said Principal Dr. Hank Jackoby. “They carried themselves in a respectful way. Our student leaders, they were able to walk them through those biographies and lend an attitude of dignity and respect to it.”
Nationally, students from nearly 3,000 schools were expected to participate. According to media reports, some schools indicated that students who walked out would be suspended as many as three days. Jackoby said that while the absences from class were not excused, no Xenia student would be punished for participating.
“As I talked to the kids, I realized there was no doubt some of the kids were going to want to participate in a national movement,” he said. “We don’t take sides on politics, but if I have good kids with peaceful intentions … we can’t exclude that but we can make sure it’s safe.”
Jackoby added that the students and teachers used the time not for political protest but to talk about how to keep the school safe. Another topic discussed was that of inclusion for all students, regardless of their athletic or academic abilities.
“Kids want to reach out to kids who aren’t part of the popular group,” Jackoby said. “That’s a movement that kind of started here today.”
As the names were being read, many students embraced, while others were teary-eyed. One student walked into the office, picked up a small slip of paper with one of the bios and said, “I’m never getting rid of this piece of paper.”
“Our staff and students all care deeply about people and each other,” Jackoby said. “That was symbolic of how they amaze me. Caring, good people.”
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.