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Student walkouts dwindle at Littleton Public Schools

Only Heritage High School sees organized effort, participants few

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A couple dozen students huddled to reflect and rally on the football field at Heritage High School on the morning of April 20, almost 19 years to the moment after the first shots rang out in the Columbine High School massacre.

“Today was about getting together and remembering what happened 19 years ago,” said sophomore Savannah Brown. “It was the spark and catalyst of this movement. We need to remember the 13 lives lost at Columbine and their impact on what we're doing now.”

The numbers were minuscule compared to the student walkouts of a month ago, part of a coordinated nationwide effort calling for new gun legislation and a ban on the sale of assault weapons in the wake of a February massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

“People are getting tired,” said freshman TJ Jones, who participated in the walkout. “There's only so much political stamina most people have. It's hard to continually protest and contact your senators.”

Several of the students had attended the Vote For Our Lives event the night prior at Clement Park, where survivors of the Columbine massacre, the 2013 Arapahoe High School shooting and Parkland massacre rallied supporters to vote out politicians they see as hostile or indifferent to their cause.

Student organizers weren't surprised by the small turnout at the Heritage walkout. In addition to the Heritage students, a handful of students walked out briefly at Littleton High School, but there was no walkout at Arapahoe High School, said Littleton Public Schools spokeswoman Diane Leiker.

“To be honest, I think there's some activism burnout,” said senior Cameron Berry, who is involved with the Colorado Youth Conference, a group for politically engaged youngsters. “It happens to even the most dedicated activists. Plus, students are under a lot of pressure at the end of the school year. It's harder for kids to miss class this close to finals.”

Berry saw a vision for the future of the movement at the Clement Park event.

“Some people have been skeptical of this movement as a whole because it's been so predominantly white,” Berry said. “Vote For Our Lives was they had a lot of students of color speak out about police brutality and the violence done against them for years. They never had the same platform we have, simply because of our white privilege. It was a step in the right direction, and back to what this movement is really about.”

Students expressed support for planned teacher walkouts in Jefferson County public schools on April 26.

“We support them because solidarity can help build a movement,” said student Brenden O'Haire.

Students vowed not to lose momentum over summer break.

“Summer is a great time to keep the momentum going — we don't have class or responsibilities,” said sophomore Ruki Cahill. “I don't want people to say 'Oh, it's summertime, I don't have to be an activist anymore.' It's the time to be the ultimate activist — we can go down to the Capitol and get our message across without being stuck behind a schoolyard fence.”

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