The protests spread from school to school as students shared plans for their demonstrations over social media. Many lasted 17 minutes in honor of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
Hundreds of students from Maryland schools ditched class to rally at the U.S. Capitol. Hundreds more filed out of their schools in cities from Chicago to Austin, Texas, often around the lunch hour.
About 200 students at Dublin Scioto High School in Ohio sat outside in silence for 17 minutes and wrote notes of support that will be mailed to survivors of the Florida shooting.
“No child should have to go to school and be scared for their life,” said Daviyana Warren, a 15-year-old sophomore at the school. “It hits close to home, because it’s happening to us.”
While some groups have worked to organize national demonstrations in the coming weeks, students said Wednesday’s were mostly impromptu and organized out of a sense of urgency to find solutions to gun violence.
Many of the protests were accompanied by chants of “Never again,” which has been a rallying cry since the Florida shooting, and some called for action from lawmakers.
“It’s ridiculous that we’ve let it get as far as it is,” said Rebecca Parch, a sophomore who organized a walkout at Lakewood High School, near Cleveland. “I think that teenagers are just done with it now.”
Some schools said students wouldn’t be punished for walking out, but some said students could face suspensions for protesting.
Superintendent Curtis Rhodes, of Texas’ Needville Independent School District, said students who left class would be suspended for three days, even if they had their parents’ permission.
Other walkouts are already being planned, including March 14, one month after the Florida shooting, and April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.
At the protest at the U.S. Capitol, students held a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Parkland and listened as the names of the dead were recited.
Daniel Gelillo, a senior at Richard Montgomery High in Rockville, Maryland, who helped organize the protest, said students were hoping to pressure lawmakers to finally act on gun control. He said that up to now “nothing has quite fazed them.”
“The Orlando shooting, Las Vegas and now Parkland,” he said. “Something has to happen. Innocent people are dying because of the easy access to firearms in this country.”
A day earlier, South Florida students lobbied lawmakers for a ban on assault rifles but couldn’t change the minds of Republicans, who have fought to expand gun rights rather than restrict them. Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and other Broward County schools met with legislators their state Capitol, but the House refused to hear a bill that would ban assault rifles and Republicans steered the conversation to school security and mental health screening.
Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.
Follow Collin Binkley on Twitter at @cbinkley