After a 17-minute reading, during which a chorus of voices read out the names and some details about the victims, event organizers led a crowd of students across campus, down Oak Grove Avenue to El Camino Real.
As students exited the campus, staff and faculty at the high school waved, but were not permitted to participate or support the protests on school time, according to district policy, several teachers said.
At El Camino Real, M-A students joined with students from Menlo School and Sacred Heart Prep, marching alongside police protection from Atherton, Menlo Park and Palo Alto until they reached El Camino Park in Palo Alto. Some shouted and chanted: "This is what democracy looks like!"
At the park, students took turns sharing a megaphone, through which they presented emotional speeches, mainly calling for gun law reform.
According to Palo Alto Police Captain Zach Perron, an estimated 1,500 students attended the walkout. About 800 students at Menlo-Atherton High School were considered absent at some point that day, according to the school's principal, Simone Kennel.
Menlo School spokesman Alex Perez said that the school also hosted a 17-minute event to honor the victims, which was attended by about half of Menlo's Upper School students and most of the Middle School students. About 150 Upper School students left campus to attend the student rally at El Camino Park, he said. He noted that students had support from the administration to plan and organize, but the only administration involvement was to communicate about the logistics to parents and work with local authorities to keep students safe off campus.
As might be expected, student dedication to making the trek to the Palo Alto park varied. One group of students walked as far as El Camino on Oak Grove Avenue before returning along Ravenswood Avenue. They wanted to see how far they could get without missing third period, they said.
A number of students the Almanac spoke with, though, had strong opinions on the topic. "We should be more responsible with guns," and make sure whoever buys the guns are not dangerous, said M-A student Javier Piedrahita.
Sacred Heart Prep junior Charlotte Lim said she found it shocking that some of the victims of the Parkland shooting were only 14 years old, the age of her brother. She's 16, and said it is hard to imagine losing a friend or sibling to gun violence.
M-A senior Zoe Schacter-Brodie said the event made her feel empowered. The event was somber, but was also "incredibly inspiring," she said, showing respect for the students who lost their lives and responding with a call to action, demanding: Never again.
She said her opinions about gun violence were shaped by seeing the raw grief of the Parkland survivors online, she said, which brought the topic to the fore of her conversations with classmates, teachers, peers and family members.
Emma Denend, a junior, emphasized the role that teens can play on social media by sharing and learning about current events. "Since Trump was elected, I think people realize they have a voice to fight back," she said.
Student organizers at Menlo-Atherton High School included Holly Newman, Isabella Montoya, Katherine Steere, Maria Ornes and Kaile Prosser.
Holly Newman said in an interview that one of the goals for the rally was to invite students from around the area to participate, given differences in what activities school and district administrations permitted on campus.
"Because of different directives from school districts in the area, not every school or student body is able to participate in the same way," she said.
One reason she believes local high school students feel so passionately about the Parkland shooting is that many watched footage of the shooting recorded by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students on Snapchat.
"The immediacy of that was really frightening," she said. "A lot of people for the first time saw that this could happen anywhere. ... It could have been us. "
In addition to the rally, she said, students organized a letter-writing campaign that yielded more than 300 letters to legislators in support of gun control, she said. The students also organized a voter registration and preregistration campaign, and organized a photo shoot to spell out "No Guns" with their bodies to be photographed via drone.
Ms. Kennel said students have also been informed of the "March for our Lives" event scheduled for Saturday, March 24, in Redwood City, that some of the same students are helping to organize and planning to attend.
The school takes student safety very seriously, she said. Menlo-Atherton has an active safety committee that annually reviews its campuswide safety plan, and schoolwide safety drills are conducted regularly.
"I think there's a problem when we're practicing active shooter drills to begin with," she said. "I'm glad students have lent their voice to the debate."
A number of parents of students also volunteered and showed their support for the walkout.
Another M-A parent, who asked not to be named because her job is government-funded, said the student action was "refreshing and inspiring." Her daughter, she said, was worried about missing class, but she encouraged her daughter to participate.
"When we talk to people about Hitler's Germany, you don't ask 'What grade did you get?'" she says she told her daughter. "You ask, 'What the hell did you do?'"
Away from the crowd of students, Dan and Julie Lythcott-Haims were in attendance in support of their daughter, a Gunn High School student. Ms. Lythcott-Haims is a well-known local writer whose work focuses on the concept of "helicopter parenting."
In an essay published online, she responded to a social media statement by her daughter, who insisted she would participate in the walkout, whether or not she had permission.
An excerpt is below:
"You're right that asking permission defeats the purpose. That sacrifice is an essential element of the narrative of protest. These kids are willing to sacrifice all of this for that, folks will say, and that's precisely how your efforts will start to move hearts and change minds. The important movements demand and deserve your bravery, risk, and sacrifice so much so that some particular high school teacher's or college dean's point of view on it doesn't even merit consideration in the analysis. And it seems you already feel in your bones that no high school transcript, college admission letter, or job offer is worth the deep regret you will feel if you fail to take a stand on an issue that matters in your soul."
The full piece can be accessed at is.gd/letter957.
This story contains 1190 words.
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