WAUKESHA -- As students in SE Wisconsin and across the country walked out of class on Wednesday, March 14 in protest of gun violence and in solidarity with the victims and survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. exactly one month ago, parents organized a rally in support of students, and banning assault weapons in Waukesha. They're demanding the school board take a public stance on the issue.
Parents said it's the students who have inspired them to work to make a change. They said they're hoping to get the attention of school district officials.
The protest began with prayer, asking that guidance from above bring resolution to an ongoing debate. The group of parents, neighbors, clergymen and retired teachers rallied near Cutler Park in Waukesha.
"After Columbine, Sandy Hook and Las Vegas and Orlando, someone would have stood up and said 'this is insane. We need to stop this.' There hasn't been that kind of leadership at the national level, but now we have students leading," said Steve Schmitz.
They marched to the School District of Waukesha's Administration Building with signs and posters -- demanding the school board take a public stance against assault rifles and gun violence.
"I was really inspired by these kids go out to the public and say 'you guys are not doing a good enough job,'" said Tahra Loy, parent.
A school board member met with the group and said he appreciated their message and that this will be under discussion.
"We haven't gotten to that point yet, but very likely you are going to be hearing from us," said Bill Baumgart, Waukesha School Board member.
Around the same time, students at Waukesha North High School walked out as part of the protests nationwide. They then sat down for a moment of silence in honor of the 17 lives lost in Florida on Valentine's Day.
Parents who rallied said this was about standing in solidarity with their children.
"We want our kids in our schools to know we support them making a statement about safety and gun violence in our schools," said Loy.
Todd Gray, School District of Waukesha superintendent released the following statement on the walkouts:
"Today, some of our students at our high schools and middle schools participated in a various events to recognize the tragedy in Parkland, Florida. The students who remained on campus honored the 17 minute time period, and shortly after the various events, were back in classrooms. No incidences or issues were reported by any of our principals.
Unfortunately, some of the media has continued to inaccurately report, based on a student interview, that administration had intended to punish students if they participated, even though that issue was clarified and dispelled weeks ago, back in February. Nothing since that time has changed.
Our administration allowed each school principal to manage their own events with no directives or input from our administration, other than students leaving the school campus were required to be excused by parents. This is our normal rule and board policy. Also, they could not be disruptive to classrooms as well--again our normal school rule.
Our thanks to the many students who showed respect and remained peaceful during the events. We are proud of them."