Hundreds of North students protest inaction on school shootings

North Salem High School students rally in support of school safety and gun control on Tuesday, May 31, following a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and a lockdown at North (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Nevaeh Bullard was in her U.S. government class at North Salem High School Friday afternoon when police received a call about a man with a gun outside the school.

Bullard, 17, and her classmates went into a lockdown, barricading doors and listening to a police scanner in hopes of getting up-to-date information about what was happening.

“I’ve never experienced a classroom of 20 kids hyperventilating like that,” she said. “We thought he was trying to get into the school.” 

On Tuesday afternoon, Bullard and two classmates led hundreds of North Salem students in a walkout and memorial to remember the 21 people killed in a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last week, and to call for politicians to take action to reform U.S. gun laws.

Bullard said Friday’s lockdown was a very real reminder of the possibility of shootings at schools across the country.

“We thought the same thing was happening to us, and our mind went to the worst case scenario because the worst case scenario is happening all over our country every day,” she said, speaking over a megaphone to hundreds of students forming a ring on the school’s football field.

Student organizer Sven Roeder, center, addresses North students at a walkout protesting gun violence on Tuesday, May 31 as organizer Neveah Bullard holds a sign listing the students and teachers killed in the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde, Texas (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The Salem Police Department responded Friday to North and never located anyone with a gun, but police received multiple credible eyewitness reports and don’t believe the call was a hoax, police spokeswoman Angela Hendrick said Tuesday.

Similar student-led events were held at McKay, McNary, Sprague and South Salem high schools with smaller groups, district spokesman Aaron Harada said.

Students at North gathered during fourth period, with Bullard and co-organizers Chloe Turner, 17, and Sven Roeder, 18, urging the group to contact their federal and state legislators. They urged measures including raising the age required to purchase a gun, requiring more stringent psychological evaluations for gun owners and requiring background checks for everyone in the household, not just the gun owner.

“Gun violence is an issue that’s unique to the United States,” said Roeder, who’s an exchange student from Germany. She detailed how Germany and Australia both changed gun laws following mass shootings and said the U.S. can take the same action.

“This is not normal and it should not be normal,” she said, drawing cheers from the assembled students.

Following several brief speeches, students walked quietly around the school track for 21 minutes to commemorate the 19 children and two teachers killed in Uvalde.

Many held photos of those killed, or signs calling for more gun regulation and improved safety in schools.

Principal Chad Towe joined students for the walk, saying he was marching in support of their call for safety in schools, not any specific policy proposal. He earlier in the day emailed parents to let them know of the planned walkout and said students would not be disciplined for attending or not attending.

Xochitl Reyes, 17, and Jhazrelle Gueco, 15, marched together. Neither was in school Friday when the lockdown took place, but both said they were texting friends trying to stay abreast of what was happening.

“I think it’s wrong. School should be a safe place to learn,” Gueco said.

Reyes said the apparent recent escalation in mass shootings needs more attention, and it shouldn’t take so many dead bodies for changes to gun laws.

“It has to take so much death from children for people to start doing something,” Reyes said.

North Salem High School students march in support of school safety and gun control on Tuesday, May 31, following a mass school shooting in Uvalde, Texas and a lockdown at North (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Sven Roeder, 18, right, leads a march of students protesting gun violence at North Salem High School on Tuesday, May 31 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Nevaeh Bullard, 17, a junior at North Salem High School, organizes signs in advance of a student walkout protesting gun violence on Tuesday, May 31 (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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