COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho - Students at Coeur d'Alene High School joined thousands of other students participating in a walkout on the one month anniversary of the Parkland shooting, but students at CdA used their walkout to be politically active.
Around 250-300 students chose to leave class for 17 minutes, and gather in the gym. Event organizers, Annika Silk and Ashley Romanowski, kept their speeches short, and then invited their classmates to start taking action.
With supplies provided, students signed letters to their local members of Congress and registered to vote, if they were of age.
"We're the next generation that's going to be running the government and to see kids our age, I mean, neither of us are 18 yet, and we're already taking a step to kind of help with the government, because, I mean, that's what we're here for," said Silk, a senior at CdA High School.
Students said they want politicians to know that they want tougher restrictions on firearms, and more programs targeting mental health and bullying.
"We're hoping to make them realize that 'hey, we're the people who are going to be voting you in or out of office. You might want to start listening to us,'" Silk said.
The event was completely led by students, with minimal oversight by school administration. The district says it was important to them that students were allowed to exercise their First Amendment rights.
"They were so organized and prepared for this. And they were respectful of each other, they were respectful of differing opinions, they were respectful of the time," said Scott Maben, spokesman for Coeur d'Alene Public Schools.
Not only was the administration there to show support, but so were members of the community. A small group of parents and community members gathered on the sidewalk outside the high school to show their support for the students. One woman held a sign reading "CDA supports our students."
"I think it's fantastic. The kids are our future. Their voice is important," she said.
But, not everyone was showing support for the walkout. Not far away a counter-protest was organized to show support for the Second Amendment.
Organizers for the walkout said their walkout was not against the Second Amendment.
"We aren't trying to ban guns. That's what I think is most important here, is we don't want to take away your guns. But, somebody who's mentally unfit to have a gun, shouldn't have one," said Romanowski.
Romanowski adds that this about feeling safe.
"It would make me feel a lot better going out to the store and knowing that that person who's carrying on their hip is able to and is mentally fit and I know that they won't try and hurt me," she said.
And students say that better gun control is only part of the conversation. They add that there also needs to be more of a focus on programs targeting mental health and bullying.
"Guns by themselves can't do this damage. If you set a gun on a table, it's not going to pick itself up and shoot somebody," Silk said. "But, it's still the weapon that's being used quite a bit for it. So, we are trying to look at the people themselves too with better mental health, anti-bullying programs in high schools and even younger schools."
That's the call we're hearing nationwide from students who joined in Wednesday's national protests. Students say they're just glad to be a part of something bigger.
"It's so amazing to see so many students come together and work for this one thing that we all believe in," said Romanowski
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