Student plans unique walkout at Mandarin Middle School

Students across US to honor 17 Parkland victims 1 month after shooting

By Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thousands of students across the U.S. plan to take part in a coordinated walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday to honor the 17 people killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

At that time, students at Mandarin Middle School in Jacksonville will be doing something unique to show their support. They will walk out of class, but they won't be leaving the building.

Owen Morris, a sixth-grade student at Mandarin Middle, planned the special walkout after driving past Stoneman Douglas hours after the shooting on Feb. 14.

"He really was affected when we drove by Parkland and he saw the piles of backpacks," said Jennifer Morris, his mother. "That was his breaking point."

So Owen came up with a plan to honor the 17 victims in a very special way, and asked his sister, Madison Morris, to help out.

"I realized something had to be done," Owen told News4Jax on Tuesday.

Instead of leaving campus Wednesday morning, Owen said, "Students will walk out of the classrooms and they will stand together, arm-to-arm, and stand in solidarity." 

After one minute and 17 seconds of standing in the hallways, Owen will read the names of the 17 people killed at the Parkland school. Then Madison, an eighth-grader at Mandarin Middle, will deliver a speech.

“The thing I’m going to say is that I really love and support the Parkland students," Madison said. "I feel terrible about what happened. The kids went to school on a normal day then they went through a terrible tragedy.”

Mandarin Middle art teacher Sarah Renfro said the plan has gained a lot of support. 

“Without hesitation, I was automatically impressed and proud that they wanted to do something and that they came up with a plan on their own," Renfrow said. "They went to our principal on their own to get approval.”

Each of the Mandarin Middle students will get an orange ribbon, representing putting an end to gun violence.

Owen and Madison said they feel safe at their school, but they believe more can be done to protect children at schools across the country. 

“I wanted to be a part of the movement that’s trying to convince Congress to pass stricter gun laws," Owen said. 

Owen and Madison's mother said she's very proud.

"It means they care and I know they deeply care about their community," Jennifer Morris said.

RELATED: Community to address 'Generation Under Fire'Students, experts to weigh in on school safety at News4Jax town hall

Owen and his family, as well as many of his fellow classmates, also plan to attend the "Generation Under Fire" town hall discussion, hosted by Channel 4 in partnership with the Public Policy Institute at Jacksonville University. The event begins at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Terry Concert Hall. 

The live town hall meeting will also air at 8-9:30 p.m. Wednesday on Channel 4 and News4Jax.com.

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