By Sarah Gianelli EBS Senior Editor

BIG SKY – On March 14, dozens of Ophir Middle School and Lone Peak High School students walked out of their classrooms in solidarity with thousands of students nationwide protesting gun violence.

For 17 minutes—in honor of the 17 people killed in the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida—Big Sky students held banners that read “we call B.S.,” “protect kids not guns,” “enough is enough,” and other slogans calling for change. After walking out, the students congregated near the American flag in the high school bus loop, which had been closed to traffic.

Senior Abi Hogan partnered with her friend Olivia Bulis to organize the walkout, and together they created an Instagram account and video to get the word out and inform their fellow students about the purpose of the protest. She said the point of participating—which was entirely voluntary—was to encourage students to use their voices about issues they care about.

“It’s about showing support and using your voice,” Hogan said just before the 10 a.m. walkout. “I hope that students gain awareness of what’s going on in their country and are not afraid to speak out.”

Superintendent Dustin Shipman stressed that the protest was 100-percent student organized, but in reference to a point of debate in some schools around the country, Big Sky School District students would not be penalized for their participation.

“I’m excited to be able to allow our students to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said middle and high school principal Alex Ide. “It’s an opportunity to take a moment to recognize that we have an issue around gun violence, especially in schools. It’s my hope that through this walkout students will continue to pursue these issues at a greater level.”