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Tamaqua students honor Parkland victims

One month ago, a deeply disturbed Nikolas Cruz ended 17 lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, reigniting the controversy over gun control and school safety.

The group EMPOWER, described as the youth faction of the national group Women’s March, called on students throughout the country to unite in their stance on the hot political issue by walking out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

The walkout was designed to last 17 minutes, one for each life lost on Feb. 14 in the Florida school shooting.

The organization said more than 3,000 walkouts were planned for Wednesday. That number didn’t include Tamaqua Area High School.

When word of the walkout began gaining traction, Tamaqua Area High School Principal Thomas McCabe sat down with student leaders from all four grades to discuss their concerns and intentions.

He asked them to speak with their fellow students to see if there was massive support for the walkout, explaining the purpose behind the event was twofold, to support the Parkland students and to advance a political agenda.

Organizers of the ENOUGH National School Walkout are calling for legislators to “ban assault weapons, require universal background checks before gun sales and pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior.” according to their website.

They asked supporters to wear orange in support of gun control measures.

“I wanted to let them know we, the administration, would support them in whatever action they wanted to take, but to also know there was a political agenda attached to the walkout, not just a memorial to the slain students,” said McCabe this morning.

“If a large number of students wanted to walk out, we’d support that and ask for a police presence to ensure their safety.”

Two weeks after those conversations, student leaders told McCabe there was no clear consensus among the student body, other than they wanted to support the Parkland students.

“I offered them the opportunity to have a dress-down day, where they could each donate $1 to the Parkland victims’ fund. The response was nothing but positive,” McCabe said.

With the dress-down day slated as the students’ answer to the call for the walkout, McCabe addressed the student body, explaining the goals and consequences if anyone chose to walk out at 10 a.m.

The hallways of Tamaqua High School were awash in a sea of colors instead of the usual khaki and blue Wednesday morning as students and faculty members found a way to show their support without disrupting the class day.

Tamaqua High School students elected to conduct a dress-down day in support of the victims of the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The students were given the option of participating in the national walkout, but chose to dress down instead. All proceeds will go to the Parkland Victims’ Fund. KATHY KUNKEL/TIMES NEWS