Cobb’s resistance to national walkout met with student resolve

Cobb’s stance on Wednesday’s national student walkout brought the world to its door – although that door was shut to media attempting to cover how students fared in a system that vowed punishment for participating.

Below, I share two accounts by Cobb students providing a glimpse of how the district discouraged students from joining the walkout.

Cobb County earned mention in many publications for its resistance to the walkout, which stood in contrast to the welcoming posture of DeKalb, Atlanta, Decatur and Marietta schools. APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen even snapped a selfie with the student organizers of the walkout at Inman Middle School. The photo appeared on Twitter.

You can find an example of national coverage of Cobb's position here and international coverage here. You can read a good AJC story on the student organizers here.

The AJC’s Vanessa McCray will cover tonight’s Cobb school board meeting to report on whether students who walked out will be punished, and, if so, how. (My prediction: They will not be punished in any real way. I think the district wants to avoid more news coverage.)

Writing in the metro-wide student publication VOX Atlanta, Erin Davis described a dispiriting scene at her school, North Cobb High. Erin’s parents gave her an excused absence from school to participate in the walkout and report on it for VOX.

She writes:  (This is a short excerpt. Please read the full piece.)

As I made my way toward the front of my school, I observed the following: the administration was patrolling the halls in high numbers, looking to target and corner any students making their way toward the front for the walkout. At least eight Cobb County Police vehicles were on site.
North Cobb High administration's apparent approach was to hinder the walkout by inhibiting a large portion of students from participating in the nationwide walkout, out of fear of disciplinary action.
As a result, there were three dozen students who left class and sat in protest in the school foyer for 17 minutes. Only three dozen out of the approximate 3,000 students who attend North Cobb and the many students who had initially signed the petition for the National Walkout event, before the county had condemned it.
I understand why North Cobb High School did not spearhead a school-wide walkout since Cobb County had previously announced it would not condone it, with the reasoning that the student safety needed to be the county's primary concern. But the same police cars that sat on the grounds of our school to contain and apply pressure to the protesters could have been used to keep the peace during a school-wide walkout. It was very possible for North Cobb High to take different action, like other schools such as Lassiter High that chose to aid the organization of a student walkout. However, our school administrators aggressively targeted the students who wanted to peaceably protest school gun violence.
And for 17 minutes, we did sit there peaceably, in utter silence, and in utter stillness. I sat toward the rear of the protesters, the glower of the administration personnel above me. The floor was hard and cold. It matched the mood and tone of the moment. Several of the administrators lorded over us, as well as police officers. Under that pressure and duress, there was an anxiousness to the crowd and a sense of fear. The walkout-turned-sit-in felt less like a moment of solidarity, and more like a small and insignificant disruption made by a tiny band of rebel forces unwilling to back down from an uphill battle.

Madeleine Deisen captured the scene at Walton High School in an article for the Youth Journal International. She and 265 fellow Walton walked out despite active discouragement by their school.

As part of the ceremony, Walton senior Daniel Marks shared his personal connections to Parkland, saying, “I walk out for the 17 who could never send a text to someone close to them to tell them that they were OK.” Other student speakers talked about registering to vote and Georgia’s gun laws.

Detailing the event, Deisen wrote:  (This is an excerpt.)

I was happy with the turnout – about 10 percent of Walton's student body – especially considering the opposition we faced from the county and our administration.
Both Cobb County and Walton administrators dissuaded students from participating in the walkout. School officials said there will be disciplinary consequences for the students who participated, but haven't yet said what they will be.
The administration's vague, but negative, response to walkout plans apparently instilled fear of strict disciplinary action and dissuaded many students from participating. Initially, more than 2,000 had signed up through the Women's March Action Network RSVP.
But we organizers believe some of those signups included parents and community members. After being barred from the campus during the walkout, many parents stood outside on the sidewalk with supportive signs.

The walkout at Walton today deeply inspired me. Each of the 266 students was passionate and dedicated to the cause, and the walkout was unified and purposeful.
I believe that Walton students, along with the thousands of students across the country who walked out today, have the power to ensure that 'Never Again' becomes not only a slogan, but a reality.