#March4OurLives: Bay Area student protests marred by San Leandro threat

As students protested gun violence across the nation and in the Bay Area, school leaders in San Leandro locked down their school after someone wrote "I'm shooting the school at 1 tomorrow," which was found in the school bathroom.

As students at other schools were decrying gun violence, San Leandro High School was placed on lock lockdown Wednesday morning. No arrests were made, but officials closed the school for Thursday as well. 

This was not lost on Oakland Tech sophomore class president Samuel Getachew, 15, who told the crowd about the shooting threat before performing his own poem on guns and violence.

"This is real," he told people.

Before that, the protests were organized and peaceful at other campuses and were part of the 3,000 events planned around the country. Young people began walking out of school as the clock struck 10 a.m. on Wednesday all over the country, demanding action on gun violence in what activists hoped would be the biggest demonstration of student activism yet in response to last month's massacre in Florida.

In the Bay Area, students from Oakland to Union City, San Mateo to Petaluma, and San Ramon to Ross, picked up  megaphones, held “die ins” and marched around neighborhoods hoping to raise awareness and do what they can with their mass protest to hope that another school massacre will never happen again. At Palo Alto Unified, Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said her district is "applauding students' commitment to be on the forefront of driving social change." 

"It's a basic human right to be safe in school," Oakland Tech's Samuel said.  "It's insane that we should have to question that. We have lost too many people not to have done something by now. And this seems to be a turning point. I want to be part of that. I want to be present when that happens."

Students at College Prep held a "die in" for 17 minutes on their Oakland campus, where they lay on the ground motionless to remember those who died in the Feb. 14 Florida massacre. But student Micalyn Struble said she's actually looking more forward to a quieter part of the protest: Writing letters during lunchtime to key stakeholders from police chiefs to politicians.

"We have a whole spreadsheet of who we're going to write," she said. "I think that will be even more meaningful." 

And in San Francisco, interim mayor Mark Farrell  joined the students at Ruth Asawa School of the Arts. "I think the NRA has finally met their match, the young people in this country," San Francisco school board commissioner Matt Haney said Tuesday evening.

Not everyone, however, was so gung-ho about letting students leave math class to stand on a soapbox during the school day. Milpitas Unified School District Supt. Cheryl Jordan, for example, said the district will not condone student walkouts and anyone who chooses to participate will get an unexcused absence. Individual schools can choose to mark the tragedy with a moment of silence in class.  But "leaving campus during school hours to participate in political activity is not a safe and responsible way to work for change," she added.

Individual students at Claremont Middle School in Oakland also chose to stay in class and not participate in a 2nd period walkout. 

In Columbus, Ohio, high schooler Logan Cole said in a Facebook video he won't be part of the walkout, writing that they are oversimplifying the problem of school violence by advocating more gun control as the solution.

Cole says it's better to honor the Parkland victims in a nonpolitical way. He is inviting classmates to join him in doing that through a memorial service at his school.

Scenes repeated around the country.

On the East Coast, thousands of students gathered on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House, holding colorful signs and cheering in support of gun control. The students chanted, "Hey, hey, ho, ho. The NRA has got to go!" and "What do we want? Gun control! When do we want it? Now!"

In Gates, NY, students honored the victims by reading a prayer and lighting a candle and vowing to do 17 acts of kindness.

The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.


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