CALISTOGA — On March 14 at 10 a.m. as thousands and thousands of students across the nation walked out of their classrooms to honor the lives of the 17 people who died in the Parkland school shootings, a smattering of Calistoga students walked out with them. And walked back in with detentions for leaving class.
Detentions were given to six high school students and about three dozen junior high school students, said Rosie Martinez, ninth-grader at Calistoga Junior-Senior High School, who walked out.
Martinez said she walked out knowing she would be given detention. “I have to stand up for what I believe in,” she said.
Detentions come with the loss of participating in extracurricular activities. Students with detentions are not be allowed to participate in such things as after-school sports or field trips. Martinez said it was worth it.
The nationwide walkout was to start at 10 a.m. and last 17 minutes. It was both a memorial and a protest against gun violence and a call for Congress to act for stronger gun control.
A small number of students at the River School in Napa also engaged in an unauthorized campus demonstration. They received tardies, which required a moment of reflection on their actions’ impact on classmates.
Calistoga students weren’t allowed to demonstrate outside on campus, where they would have been visible to the community, nor were they allowed to shout rally chants.
To Martinez, these rules felt limiting, and she didn’t feel like she was really participating in the movement, she said.
Students were given “a safe space” in the school gymnasium, said Craig Wycoff, Calistoga High School principal.
They were also provided large sheets of paper and markers to make signs, some using the hashtag #enough, a common message seen during various demonstrations against gun violence throughout the country.
Wycoff said the decision to hand out detentions to students who walked out of class was in keeping with school policy, one he wasn’t willing to budge on or show any leniency. If a student walks out of class without permission at any time, a detention is handed out.
Wycoff said the school encouraged students to participate in the national walk-out provided they could come up with a proposal of how and what they wanted to do to honor the dead and protest gun violence.
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“Two or three (students) approached me and said they wanted to do something,” Wycoff said. “I said ‘Great, come back to me with a proposal.’” But nobody came back.
Some students disagreed with Wycoff, saying they felt stifled, not encouraged.
“It was just 17 minutes,” Martinez said. A small amount of time from the school day wouldn’t make that much difference in her education, she said.
Another student added that of the 17 minutes, five were part of the class transfer period, so the loss of time in class was actually 12 minutes.
Eighth-grader Michelle Benitez said she wasn’t willing to disrupt her class time to walk out, as she didn’t want to interrupt her education. She was one of three who remained in her English class, she said.
“It felt a little strange” to be one of the few left behind, she said. “But it was quiet so it was better.”
Parents received a programmed phone call from the school the night before the walkout informing them of the consequences if their children walked out of class the next day.
Five minutes before 10 a.m. on the day of the walkout, Wycoff reiterated over the P.A. that students would face detention if they walked out, and that they wouldn’t be allowed to participate in after-school events. That was probably a deterrent to seniors who have graduation events, senior trip and prom coming up, some students guessed.
Ninth-grader Giselle Tobon was absent the day of the walk-out, but said she would have participated. She said she doesn’t understand why the school didn’t support the demonstration and believes the 12 minutes lost from class is minor in comparison to time spent on other events such as rallies.
“Our community and our school spend hours” participating in parades and floats that don’t have meaningful civil discourse, she said. The situation left her feeling “frustrated,” she said.
Pointing to St. Helena High School’s demonstration, some students said they wished Calistoga could have done something similar, with students marching around campus carrying signs, they said.
A couple students interviewed by The Weekly Calistogan said students were discouraged from demonstrating one other time — they think it was when President Donald Trump was elected to office. They wanted to carry signs and walk through Calistoga streets, but were dissuaded because it would cause disruption downtown and place an unnecessary burden on Calistoga police.