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CVHS students stage walkout
District officials discipline 17 students who ditch classes
Central Valley High students hold up the names of students killed in the Columbine School massacre of April 20, 1999. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Seventeen students from Central Valley High School will face disciplinary action after missing two class periods to participate in the National School Walkout on April 20.

They rallied against gun violence and took time to remember victims.

"We want to get the attention of the people in our community and lawmakers," said a Central Valley junior demonstrator who wished to remain anonymous. "We're going to keep doing this until we see change. It's scary. But this is something we really believe in. Whether it's one voice or 200 voices, we're still making a difference."
Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in which 12 students and a teacher were killed by two gunmen.

Central Valley students gathered in the school's amphitheater at 12:40 p.m. and held up sheets of paper with the names of the victims before moving their demonstration outside the main front office.

"We want change," said freshman/co-organizer Everardo Mendoza. "Stricter gun laws, fix the holes in background checks, raise the age to buy an assault rifle such as an AR-15. If you want to blame mental health, give us more psychiatrists and therapists in our schools. Giving our teachers a firearm would just make us feel even more uncomfortable."

After two Ceres Police Resource Officers wrote down the names and dates of birth of the 17 demonstrators, a Central Valley teacher convinced the participants to go back inside.

"I'm not saying your message is inappropriate," she said. "The display is. You're protesting gun violence but leaving campus to do it."

Mendoza and the others returned to the amphitheater at 1:12 p.m. and remained outside until the end of the school day.

"I'm very happy they decided to go back in," commented Ceres Unified School District Supt. Scott Siegel. "Mrs. Lubinsky (Central Valley's principal) will take all the circumstances into account and arrive at an appropriate level of discipline. I suspect it will be some sort of detention. These are good kids. They're very respectful. I just wish they hadn't walked outside. We have a duty to keep kids safe."

Stanislaus State MEChA members tried to donate four cases of water to Central Valley's demonstrators.

They were asked to leave the school's parking lot by Siegel and CUSD Assistant Supt. Jay Simmonds.

"Adults should not be encouraging and supporting students to break the rules," Siegel said. "That's just not right."

"We mentor the Central Valley MEChA Chapter," said Gloria Vallin, publicist for Stanislaus State's Chicano unity and empowerment club. "They notified us there was going to be a walkout today. We came here to support. These students have the right to raise their voices because they don't want it (gun violence) to happen here."

Across town at Ceres High School, junior Camille Vega and some of her classmates were tempted to walk out but were afraid of the consequences they'd face.

They still found a way to make a difference by promoting their cause from 11:51 a.m. to 12:32 p.m.

"At lunch, myself and two other girls had a booth," Vega said. "We had people write letters to Congressman Jeff Denham begging him to push for stricter gun laws. We made posters that encouraged students to pre-register to vote. We're really passionate about this cause. We're going to keep doing stuff until this school year is over."

"I think it's awesome students everywhere are showing support any way they can," said Ceres High senior Christian Pimentel. "It's an issue that needs to be dealt with. No one wants to come to school in fear of getting shot to death."

"We need to be more aware of the things that happen around us and how they can affect us," Mendoza said. "If we don't see change, we have to vote out the people that have not made change after all these years."

Simmonds said official believe and support free speech rights of students but not leaving campus to do so.

"We believe in the First Amendment," Simmonds said. "We're okay with students gathering on campus for a protest during lunchtime. But they're not going to miss instruction time without consequences. It's important we keep our kids focused and safe."

Students from Central Valley and Ceres High participated in the Enough: National School Walkout on March 14. The demonstration was staged exactly one month after 17 people were killed by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

There have been a total of 20 school shootings throughout the country this year.
"Just because we live in a smaller populated area, does not mean we don't have the same kind of voice like Parkland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or even Washington D.C.," said Mendoza.

"We have to listen to the other side as well and come up with a solution," a fellow Central Valley demonstrator stated. "We don't want this (school shootings) to keep going on. We hope for change."