By Dean Close, Editor

Vinton-Shellsburg High School students Sadie Mauer, Olivia Coder and Mady Rule organized a Vinton-Shellsburg High School 17-minute walk-out as part of the national movement to call for gun control and school violence prevention measures Wednesday morning at the school.

About 20 students joined the trio, and gathered outside the school for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the students who died in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., on Valentine’s Day.

“We went around asking others to join us (without disturbing other classes),” says Mauer. “I think that it is really important to do things like this because there were many in our school who did not know about this issue. I personally did it because I think that we should feel safe within our school. Others had different reasons for joining, and the main reason was to show respect for the lives lost to gun violence.”

Concerning policy changes, Mauer called for “more gun control and more security within our school to prevent something like that from happening here.” She adds that she does not believe arming teachers is a solution.

Mauer and her friends plan to join another protest, the National School Walk-Out, on April 20. Wednesday’s event was a last-minute effort, so Sadie hopes more people will join the protest on April 20, which will be the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Aurora, Colo., where 15 people, including the two shooters, died.

The last the 17 minutes in today’s walk-out was spent in a moment of silence, honoring the victims of last month shooting, as well as all who have died in school shootings.

“I felt extremely proud that we could take the last minute of our walk-out for a moment of silence to respect those who have lost their lives to school shootings,” says Mauer. “I feel so proud that even our small school and the small group of people could take part in something that affects the entire country.”

Superintendent Mary Jo Hainstock said the participating students did so in a “respectful, organized fashion,” and said that VSHS Principal Matt Kingsbury was present as the partipants gathered outside the school.

“Mr. Kingsbury monitored them to make sure that there was not an interruption in other students’ learning while at the same time recognizing the importance of respecting all students’ first amendment rights,” says the superintendent. “As far as overall school safety, it is something that we have discussed and will continue to work on. We have plans in place and will continue our training and coordination efforts. We do not anticipate conducting active shooter drills with students although we are reviewing our plans with staff so they are prepared. We are considering additional equipment and other purchases – such as security cameras, ways to lock doors from inside classrooms.”: