Miguel Armas’ brother was in the classroom next door when an accidental shooting injured two students at Salvador Castro Middle School in early February.
Not knowing at first whether his younger brother, Jacob, was injured was frightening for the senior at the nearby Los Angeles School of Global Studies at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex downtown.
Now, Armas plans to join students across the nation Wednesday by participating in a protest to honor the 17 lives cut short by a gunman at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida a month ago and call for gun reform.
“Luckily for me, my brother wasn’t hurt,” Armas said by phone this week. “We have multiple (students) who have a loss in their family (from gun violence). We’re here to stand up (for them).”
As a matter of safety and order, the Los Angeles Unified School District – along with Los Angeles police – are urging students to remain on campus to commemorate the Parkland victims at administrator-sanctioned events. Yet some impassioned students are opting to walk off campus anyway for a short time to make their point.
Armas and his colleagues say they will be holding a press conference on a sidewalk outside the school at 10 a.m. and voicing their list of “demands,” which include a national assault weapons ban, universal background checks in all states and allowing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study guns.
Meanwhile, a number of LAUSD schools are planning special events during classtime or lunch time to commemorate the Parkland massacre victims.
At John H. Francis Polytechnic High School in Sun Valley, Principal Elidia Vazquez said some students approached her and are creating their own formal program to commemorate the occasion with the blessing of administrators.
As a result, students will be linking arms on the football field and taking a moment of silence for the Parkland victims, she said. A number of students and other guests will also speak at the event, she said. Seventeen white balloons will also be released.
“The question that (the students) have is what does a safe school mean to you?” she said. “They realize that going out into the streets was a safety hazard. So they wanted to make sure to plan accordingly so that they were safe.”
Among the other LAUSD-approved events, Carson High School is holding a sit-in, where “designated students” will speak about ways to deter violence, according to district officials.
At Venice High School, students will gather on the front lawn to honor the shooting victims. They will also draft letters to legislators, register to vote and speak in favor of safe schools and gun control.
And Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School, LAUSD Interim Superintendent Vivian Ekchian will join students as they hold a “silent remembrance” in the campus quad. Students there can also write cards for Stoneman Douglas students.
Kaia Greenwood, a sophomore at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School in Lake Balboa, is spearheading a student walkout Wednesday that she’s billing as a peaceful protest to end gun violence. She said they are planning to walk to nearby local district offices, where some of them will make remarks.
Participating students will also read the names of the 17 people murdered at Stoneman Douglas, she said.
“The latest shooting at Stoneman Douglas happened to a bunch of kids our age and I find it ridiculous that we have to practice how to survive school shootings in order to accommodate gun owners,” Greenwood said.
“And I think it’s important that we all stand together and we raise our voice and make sure our message is heard.”
In a statement Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department said it will support LAUSD along with the many independent schools within city limits with extra patrols in order to better respond to any urgent incidents that may arise.