FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Students in northern Colorado joined the effort of students from across the country on Tuesday by walking out of schools to protest gun violence.
“This is what democracy looks like,” students chanted.
Hundreds of students from all five Poudre School District high schools in Fort Collins marched out of classrooms and walked to Old Town Square to congregate for an organized protest.
“What happened in Florida could happen anywhere,” said Misty Hirsch, a senior at Liberty High School.
Local residents and parents also joined in on the rally.
“I’m terrified to have my children scared going to school. I have three kids and this affects us everyday. Something has to change,” parent Angela Paschall said.
Hand in hand, students stood in silence for 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
“I can’t believe this is something that occurs again and again and again,” participant Lizette Mill said.
Students said this was not an anti-gun rally, but instead a way to open the discussion to find a solution to end the violence.
They’re calling on local and federal leaders to enact stricter gun laws.
“I don’t feel like children should be able to purchase weapons of war. I think it is well within your right as an American to own a gun, but no child should be able to own an assault rifle,” Fort Collins High School senior Haley Hartmann said.
“There has to be a change,” Paschall said.
The Poudre School District provided a statement in regards to the walkout.
"We are aware of the planned student walkout today and honor our students’ right to express their views and opinions in a respectful way. We understand that the right to protest is a time-honored tradition in our country. We certainly would have preferred these activities take place outside of the regular school day.
Today’s activities are the result of a grassroots effort by students and are not district sponsored or endorsed, as PSD does not support any viewpoint or advocacy group.
Schools are holding class as usual, with attendance being taken in our customary manner. Parents must excuse absences and/or provide permission for students to leave school, depending on the grade level."
“I am listening today to the varying viewpoints of our students. I know this important and complicated conversation about school safety is far from over,” Superintendent Sandra Smyser said.
“I will continue to work with our students and community on this critical and significant issue.”