Pahrump students stage walkout

A national movement to effect change on gun laws made its way to the Pahrump Valley.

Tim Wombaker, principal at Rosemary Clarke Middle School, said in an email that over 100 students participated in a “monitored” walkout in protest of gun violence due to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that claimed 17 lives and injured over a dozen—one of the deadliest mass shootings at a school in the U.S.

The Feb. 21 walkout at Rosemary Clarke adds to the hundreds of students across the U.S. that have participated in a similar protest for safety in schools and gun control and other related issues in the weeks following the Feb. 14 attack in Florida.

The more than 100 students participating in the local protest headed to the front gates of Rosemary Clarke on Feb. 21 at noon during lunchtime, as Wombaker spoke on a bullhorn letting students know, “we supported the walkout, but it would remain in the area designated for safety and control.”

Wombaker said students were alerted the “protest would last the remainder of lunch and then all were expected to go to class so the educational environment was not interrupted.”

“After 10 minutes, the bell rang, students were reminded of our support, but also the expectation to continue the educational day and to go to class,” Wombaker said.

All students did return to class in accordance with the request.

Administration at Rosemary Clarke had heard about a possible walkout occurring at noon on the day of the protest earlier that day.

“To support the intent of the walkout and to ensure student safety, we made a call to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office to see if they wanted to send a deputy to help oversee the walkout,” Wombaker said.

According to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office, units responded to a call of a possible walkout about 11:45 a.m. on Feb. 21. Units from the sheriff’s office were dispatched to the middle school at 4201 N. Blagg Road, though “school administration” had already taken the incident under control, according to the Nye County Sheriff’s Office.

At no time did responding officers have contact with any juveniles, the sheriff’s office said in a video statement.

“We supported them (students), and they supported us,” Wombaker said. “We appreciate (the) Nye County Sheriff’s Office being visible on campus and the intent behind the walkout.”

Wombaker said, “We planned accordingly by making sure the students were able to participate if so desired and still keep the campus in a calm and safe demeanor. Staff was stationed at the gate openings and NCSO were in the front of the school to support yet ensure safety and compliance. We felt it was important to see law enforcement on site to know safety was a top priority.”

National movement

Pahrump students were not alone in their efforts as students across the country had or are planning similar efforts.

On Feb. 20, students across many parts of the nation walked out of classrooms in solidarity with some students from Marjory Stoneman, who marched on the Florida state capital to push lawmakers toward making stricter gun laws.

The mass shooting that occurred on Feb. 14 at the high school was one of the deadliest school shootings that has occurred in the U.S. An AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle was used during the attacks, according to a report by the Broward County Sheriff’s office.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old former student of the high school who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons a year earlier, is in custody and facing 17 counts of premeditated murder, according to police.

Students from Marjory Stoneman and other high schools across the state and others filled the halls of the capitol building on Feb. 20 as state legislators decided whether to take up a bill to consider a ban on assault rifles and large-capacity magazines in the state. As many held signs reading “#NeverAgain” and other statements, the measure was voted down 71-36.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has called for action on gun control on Friday by proposing to raise the minimum age to purchase a firearm in the state to those 21 or older. Active duty and reserve military and their spouses, members of law enforcement and those in the state’s national guard would be exempt.

Scott also called for $450 million in funding to put a law enforcement officer in each school, along with other initiatives that would increase security in schools. He also wants to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.

“I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who has mental issues to use a gun,” Scott said in an address on Friday. “I want to make it virtually impossible for anyone who is a danger to themselves or others to use a gun.”

More walkouts planned

Efforts to bring more walkouts together across the country are in the works for March.

An effort known as the National School Walkout is being planned by the Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group on March 14. Organizers are pushing for students, teachers and others to walk out of classrooms at 10 a.m., in their time zones, on event day for 17 minutes.

The time is meant to signify each person killed at Marjory Stoneman on Feb. 14.

About 75 students at Silverado High School walked out for 17 minutes on Feb. 21, in the face of the Clark County School District’s warning that there would be consequences for those who participated in the national walkout, according to a report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Another effort that includes student organizers from Parkland and elsewhere is being planned on March 24. Organizers for the March for our Lives effort will march in the District of Columbia on that day to call for safety in schools and on Congress to take up legislation to address gun violence.

The effort’s organizers are also calling for people to march with them in Washington D.C. or in their own communities.

Federal initiatives

President Donald Trump announced on Feb. 20, he signed a memo ordering U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to work toward proposing regulations that would ban bump stocks and other similar devices.

Bump stock devices can modify semiautomatic weapons like the one used in the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas, so the user can fire shots more frequently.

Trump has also suggested other measures such as age restrictions, where those under 21 would not be able to purchase a semi-automatic weapon.

On Feb. 22, Trump suggested curbing school violence in a different manner.

During a meeting to discuss school safety at the White House, Trump suggested “gun-adept” teachers and staff be allowed to carry concealed firearms at schools as a measure to keep kids safe. Trump also called for bonuses for “well-trained” educators that are willing to carry a firearm in the classroom and at schools.

“These people are cowards. They’re not going to walk into a school if 20 percent of the teachers have guns — it may be 10 percent or may be 40 percent. And what I’d recommend doing is the people that do carry, we give them a bonus. We give them a little bit of a bonus,” Trump said, according to a report by CNN.

Trump reiterated his message arming trained educators on Saturday on Twitter, along with purporting implementation of such a plan could be left up to individual states.

“Armed educators (and trusted people who work within a school) love our students and will protect them. Very smart people. Must be firearms adept &have annual training. Should get yearly bonus. Shootings will not happen again – a big &very inexpensive deterrent. Up to States,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.

Some organizations such as law enforcement groups are opposed to the plan.

Richard Myers, executive director of Major Cities Chiefs Association, was quoted in USA Today, saying, “I don’t know of any police chief who believes this is a good idea. Police officers receive months of firearms training; they get instruction on decision-making and de-escalation. Even with all of that, police have been criticized that they have been too quick to use deadly force.”

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes