Downey High School Students Protest Gun Violence

On Mar. 14, Valerie Flores, 12, holds a walk-out at Downey High School and advocates for gun control due to the recent events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. 17 lives were lost during the shooting.

Oscar Flores, Copy Editor

To commemorate the seventeen lives lost in last month’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, Downey High students, and others across the nation, stood in solidarity and strength as they walked out of their classes to call for stricter gun laws.  The nationwide walkout began at 10 a.m. and lasted approximately 17 minutes, a minute for each life lost to the bullets of an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.


Since the Florida shooting on Feb. 14, Douglas High students have taken to social media sites such as Twitter to urge their representatives for reforms protecting students and the public from gun violence.  Shortly thereafter, the Women’s March Youth Empower organized a national school walkout with the hashtag, #EnoughisEnough, and encouraged student activists to enlist their school to participate in the nationwide event.


Teenage activists hailing from Oregon to West Virginia, California to New York, structured their marches for gun control differently.   Commissioner of Viking Nation for the Associated Student Body (ASB), Valerie Flores, 12, initiated plans for Downey High’s participation in the national walkout after a talk with a fellow teacher.


“Well, the first thing I did was talk to one of my teachers I trusted very much.  She helped me give the idea to Mr. Houts and he was onboard with it being student led,” Flores stated.  “His help and the administration’s was beyond what what I expected. I created a committee and had meetings and poster days where we put everything together.”


Flores’s committee comprised of thirteen students and two teachers, each of whom worked to create posters with phrases stating, “Never Again. #ENOUGH,” “It could have been us,” and “We are students. We are victims.  We are change.” Candles were laid out across the rally stage, each with the name of a life lost at the Florida shooting, along with posters of each victim posted on the wall of the C building. Speeches were given by Flores and senior Emiliano Salomon – both speakers highlighted recent mass shootings (Las Vegas and Sandy Hook shootings, respectively) and the responsibility students have to speak out and exercise their First Amendment right.


Utilizing his time on stage, Salomon hopes the walkout acts as an impetus for pupils across the nation to be more politically active and informed in today’s issues.


“I want the students to understand the severity of this issue and to champion fervently because it directly affects them.  I also want the students to understand the importance of making their voice heard,” Salomon said. “Our right to assembly, protest, and free speech are among the most powerful – if used correctly and effectively, we can achieve great change.”

Afterwords, students were given a brief moment of respite to process the messages of the speeches while formulating their own opinions.  For Anthony Ramirez, 12, Nikolas Cruz’s rampage in Parkland with an AR-15 highlights a larger issue within the paradigm of guns and their usage.


“To me, it’s really heartbreaking to see that it’s [gun violence] something so constant nowadays, something so recurring, and something so second-nature to us now – it’s something that is always happening,” Ramirez stated.  “It’s very sad that these things are happening, especially by irresponsible gun holders and people that have firearms that are not in the right hands of people. And to me, it kind of gets me mad that the wrongful people are messing it up for responsible gun holders.”


Others, like Angelina Medrano, 10, emphasized the frequency of such shootings and the people affected.


“You don’t have enough words to know that it is so sad,” Medrano said.  “Those people [Parkland victims] deserved more; they were young and they needed more life.  They were just so young and innocent.”


Prior to the walkout, Downey administration put in place certain measures to keep students from leaving the campus.  Such measures were put in place to prevent students from crowding the streets, as stated by Mr. Houts, Downey High School’s principal.

“We [Downey administration] had a staff meeting with all the teachers to talk to about the walkout specifically and with students too…,” Houts stated.  “…My paranoia was kids walking off the campus because of the busy street and someone getting hit by a car, which unfortunately, has happened four or five times — not for a walkout but just after school.  So that was my paranoia, is just, keeping everybody safe, and it looks like it worked out.”


Though teacher participation was minimal in the student-run walkout, DUSD superintendent, Dr. John Garcia gave reasons as to why teachers were unable to have a larger role than they did in the rally.


“As government employees, we [teachers and staff] are not allowed to express political beliefs during our workday,” Garcia stated.  “Now outside of our workday, and those kind of things, we are but, during our workday, because we are paid by public funds, we are not allowed to participate in political activities.”


Downey High School’s protest against gun violence marks the third walkout the school has done since its establishment — in 1994, students protested against Proposition 187, which if passed would have limited health care, education and other services to illegal immigrants; and in 2014, the push to pass an immigration reform bill prompted students to voice their opinions on the topic.  

The campaign for gun control, along with #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo, is one of many movements led by the general public to create change where legislations have failed to do so.  For more information on the National School Walkout, visit the Women’s March Youth Empower website at