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MATTOON (JG-TC) -- Mattoon High School students made a statement against gun violence along with students at schools across the country this morning.

A "large number of participants" engaged in a walkout at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes at the north end of the MHS football field. 

According to a Facebook event created for the walkout, these students sought to protest "Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods."

The event was organized to occur exactly one month after 17 students and faculty were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., by a former student wielding a rifle.

"I’m insanely proud of the turnout," said freshman Alex Seymour, who organized the event. "We worked together to be heard and to pay tribute and it’s amazing. Please know that no matter where you are, how old you are or how small you are in this world; you can do something and make a change." 

School officials released an official statement in regard to the walkout. They said the walkout was peaceful. 

The school statement read: "Mattoon High School and Mattoon Middle School students protested Wednesday in remembrance of the 17 students in Parkland, Florida who lost their lives.

"Designated areas at both schools were provided for students to safely assemble. An estimated 138 MHS students participated in the protest at the high school and 16 MMS students participated in a protest at the middle school.

"Mike Shaffer, assistant principal, MHS, reported that at 10 a.m. the students walked out of the main entrance of MHS and gathered in the north end zone of the football field and peacefully stood silent for 17 minutes. The students were supervised by MHS administration and staff. Students returned to class at approximately 10:17 a.m.

"Jeremie Smith, principal, MMS, said the students walked out at 10 a.m. of the main entrance at MMS and stood at the flagpole outside the front entrance peacefully and silently for approximately 17 minutes.

"The district recognizes students’ right to peacefully protest and assemble.

"No disciplinary action was taken regarding any students who protested, however if students left campus their families were notified. Eight students left MHS campus after the protest and their families were contacted."

The Charleston school district is on spring break this week and students were not at school Wednesday.

Mattoon High School was the site of a shooting incident just last year that ended when Angela McQueen, an MHS teacher, subdued the teen responsible.

The accused teen, Josiah Lyons, 14, was an MHS freshman at the time of the Sept. 20 shooting in the school's cafeteria.

Another boy, who reportedly was not the intended target, was shot during the incident before the shooter was subdued, according to authorities' accounts.



Jarad Jarmon is a reporter for the JG-TC. He covers the city of Charleston, Eastern Illinois University, Mattoon schools and the Regional Office of Education.

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