OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Benson High School students walked out just after noon on Thursday, calling for change and gun control after a total of 21 people were killed in mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, separated by just 10 days.
The demonstration was organized Wednesday night and Thursday morning, a junior student said. With seniors already out of class, the crowd of students was made up of freshmen, sophomores and juniors.
"If I'm sitting in my classroom, taking a final and a shooter comes in with a gun that he purchased legally with insufficient background checks, what am I going to do?" said junior, Jaelyn Bentzinger. "My textbooks aren't going to defend me. Is that final going to be worth anything?"
Junior Robert Simpson Harris believes all students at the school had thought about what they would do in the event of an active shooter situation.
"A child shouldn't have to think about, 'How would I save everybody? How would I sacrifice myself?" he said.
Bentzinger called for legislative change.
"We are going to be the next in control," she said.
Jordan Malm, a junior, said he organized the walkout.
"Children's lives matter more than a collection of AR-15s," he said.
"I felt desensitized," Malm said about the Uvalde shooting. "There's been so many shootings...It feels like a new normal that shouldn't be normal."
In a letter to families, the principal said that any students who miss class will be marked as truant. Read the letter below.
Dear Benson High Staff and Families:
Today, our administration was made aware of a student walkout and protest in response to the horrific attack in Uvalde, Texas. Students in many schools across the country organized similar demonstrations and we wanted you to be aware.
At Benson High, our top priority is to support the academic and social-emotional needs of our students, while maintaining a safe and orderly learning environment for all.
Students are expected to attend classes and understand there are natural consequences when classes are missed (truancy, missed assignments/tests, etc).
We all share in the grief our students feel. We respect and support the right of our students to advocate for causes that are important to them. We welcome the opportunity to work with any student about appropriate and creative ways to do so while at school. I encourage you to talk to your child(ren) about how they may be feeling. Our counselors and the Safe Schools Hotline (531-299-SAFE) are additional resources available to families.
School policy is that students not in class will be marked as truant. Student protests and walkouts are not school-sponsored events and instruction continued as-scheduled today.
Please contact our school at (531) 299-2520 if you have questions. Thank you for your continued support of Benson High and Omaha Public Schools.