Springfield, Mo. High school students by the hundreds-walked out of class, calling for safer schools and campaigning against gun violence. They joined nationwide demonstrations a day ahead of Saturday's massive young people's rally in Washington, DC. It's all part of a growing movement for change following the massacre at Florida's Parkland High School last month.
One of he demonstrations Friday morning in Springfield was organized, led, and attended by students at Kickapoo High School. The event was not sanctioned by the school, through the district did faculty supervision and school resource officers as it does for all large gatherings.
Heading into the event, many participants had already heard the sneers.
Zoe Sweaney said, "I think it is hard when adults undermine you because maybe you don't know what you are talking about. "
What these students do know (that most of us adults do not), is what it's like growing up with the fear of a school shooting.
Grace Laflen said, "I grew up...my teachers were telling us if your friend gets shot don't save them. It is better one life lost than two.
The students skipping class to make their voices heard and called for change. Some are sad. Others are angry.
Zoe said, "The people who usually criticize me are usually over 40, and they never grew up in a place where school shootings were normalized. She added, "Like in the 60s and 70s we had a lot of problems, but not this problem."
Grace explained, "I have grown up thinking that these terrible things that kids should not be worried about.
Grace was born in 2001, which was two years after the Columbine mass shooting in Littleton, CO. "When kids grow up in this generation, they think that violence is normal. They think that this world that we live in- we have all these shootings all of the time- it is normal. And I think that is really sad."
For some grown-ups, its easy to see a student protest and immediately break into the debate about whether it's a gun issue, or it's a mental health issue. Few of students in attendance would deny that important conversations about gun control and mental health need to be had. However, the school shootings continue. Students at the demonstration say they've had enough.
"A lot of us- a majority of us- just want to feel safe and they recognize we are not out here advocating to ban all guns. We are just advocating for everyone to feel safe when they walk into a classroom," Zoe stated.
Grace said, "A lot of those people think that we are wasting time or we are disrupting the classroom. First of all the point was to disrupt the classroom," Grace said. "We want something done."
The Springfield School District had stated it was important to give students their right to free speech and assembly. Therefore, those leaving class and taking part in the event would not face disciplinary action.