More than 200 students from Fayetteville High School walked out of class on Wednesday as part of a nationwide protest against gun violence in America.
The protest was organized one month to the day after a mass shooter killed 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last month.
Fayetteville students left class at around 10 a.m., and marched to the Washington County Courthouse, holding signs and chanting demands for legislators to take action to prevent violence in schools.
Signs read “Protect kids not guns #NeverAgain,” “We march for our lives so we don’t have to run for them,” and “We refuse to be statistics.”
The local students joined thousands of others around the country who left school Wednesday, asking legislators to take action to prevent mass shootings in the U.S.
Reactions from school administrators has been mixed, but Fayetteville Public Schools leadership encouraged the students’ efforts to make their voices heard.
“PROUD of FHS students …organized walkout and student-initiated march tomorrow,” tweeted Fayetteville Superintendent Matthew Wendt. “Student leadership and democracy at its finest. Great job.”
Wendt followed up with a second tweet to encourage the students’ demonstration on Wednesday.
“Our student leaders… leading; our students and staff… remembering & honoring. PROUD to be Superintendent… ONE FPS,” he tweeted.
Wendt’s position comes in stark contrast to the reaction in other districts, including those in Northwest Arkansas. Bentonville Public School administrators tweeted a warning to students considering participating in the protest.
“Students who choose to participate in Wednesday’s walkout at 10 a.m. will be counted absent and assigned a detention, in accordance with the student handbook,” the tweet stated.
Despite the warning, hundreds of Bentonville students participated in the walk out.
The protest in Fayetteville lasted until around 1 p.m. before students returned to school for afternoon classes.