MIDDLETON — A little more than 50 students quietly filed out the front doors of Middleton High School Wednesday morning to participate in a national school walkout protesting gun violence.
Senior Tanner Hall, 19, holding a small sign that read "Remember The Fallen" said it was time for the country — and Congress — to unite to "take care of this gun control problem."
"I think it's time for all of our congressmen and congresswomen to get together and say this can't go on," Hall said. "We can't let somebody come in and kill somebody. We need to upgrade our security or we need to limit our firearms ... or have more psychological background checks. Do something so that it won't become a threat."
Hall, who has taken a youth firearm safety class run by the National Rifle Association, also said it was time to “stop blaming the guns but blame the people.”
“We are supposed to be a country of unity and democracy, and instead we are divided,” Hall said.
Before the walkout began as planned at 10 a.m. Wednesday, administrators and staff at the high school were uncertain if anyone would participate. Two students from Middleton High School were seriously injured in a crash with an accused drunk driver on Saturday, and high school staff said students were still shaken up.
Yet despite the intermittent rain, the participating students quietly exited the classrooms to stand in scattered groups in front of the school. For the first few minutes they talked quietly in groups, checking their phones, until one student asked for silence to honor the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last month.
At 10:18, Principal Benjamin Merrill told the gathered students that taking a stand for your beliefs takes a lot of strength, “no matter if it’s for one side or the other.”
“I admire those of you who demonstrated that,” Merrill said. “Because it’s not always easy to say ‘this is what I believe in,’ and then defend that position.”
Merrill told the Idaho Press-Tribune that Middleton High School had decided not to impose any restrictions on students who chose to participate in the walkout. Instead, he said staff planned to use the walkout as an opportunity to strengthen relationships between parents and staff.
“We just want to let the kids’ voices be heard,” Merrill said. “They’re scared, they’re frustrated and they’re afraid.”
Zane Ankeny, 15, said gun violence had created a "very real and dangerous threat" to students and citizens in the United States. While she believed that background checks would help, she said it was “not just people.”
“We have the ability to get to these very dangerous weapons and we shouldn’t be able to,” Ankeny said. “It’s literally mowing down children in minutes. Children are dying and people are dying. Do you hold your recreational rights over that?”
She said the activism of the Stoneman Douglas students was inspiring because they were trying to make a change.
"It's very empowering to see that we aren't just standing still like adults think we should be," Ankeny said.