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12 Parker Chronicle

May 17, 2019M

STEM students walk out of shooting vigil amid frustration Event falls into disorder; students decried political aspect

WHAT SPEAKERS SAID “This community has lived through Columbine, Aurora and now STEM. We are failing. We are failing when this happens over and over again and nothing happens … You already have my thoughts and prayers, but … you and your children deserve more.”


A vigil that brought politicians, activists and several hundred students and parents to Highlands Ranch High School after the nearby STEM School shooting devolved into chaos and chants, with many students expressing frustration with the event’s political overtones on gun policy. “Let STEM kids speak!” shouted one voice in the crowd May 8 during the event organized by Brady, which describes itself as a gun violence prevention organization. A day earlier, eight students were wounded and one — 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo — was killed in a shooting at STEM. The vigil crowd at Highlands Ranch High’s gymnasium heard addresses from U.S. Rep. Jason Crow, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, area students and activists, but a long line of students decried the lack of speaking time for STEM students. Kallie Leyba, the president of the Douglas County School District’s teachers’ union, had her speech cut short by the student yelling for organizers to let STEM students address the crowd. Leyba responded that

— Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Crow “Our kids have enough to do. Our kids have a job to do. Their job is not to fix America’s broken gun laws. Their job is not as Kendrick (Castillo) did yesterday, to so selflessly give up their lives” for others. — U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat running for president “We’re working hard to elect gun-sense candidates like Jason (Crow) … together, we will stop this epidemic of gun violence.” Students, including some from STEM School Highlands Ranch, hold up lit-up phones outside Highlands Ranch High School after walking out of a May 8 vigil amid frustration over STEM students not getting speaking time. A shooting May 7 at STEM School wounded eight students and killed one, 18-year-old Kendrick Ray Castillo. PHOTOS BY ELLIS ARNOLD

organizers hadn’t been able to coordinate with students from STEM before the event. “We’re right here,” a student in the crowd replied, to applause from the crowd. What began then was an unraveling of the event that laid bare the frustrations students had with its format.

Leyba told the STEM students in the crowd to come out into the hallway from the gym so organizers could rework the schedule to allow them to speak. Applause erupted when more than a dozen students who appeared to be from STEM left the bleachers and exited the gym. But just as the lights dimmed and cellphone flashlights turned on for a moment dedicated to the shooting’s victims, a woman identifying herself only as a mother walked up to the lectern and spoke into the microphone. She said the media had told STEM students to leave. Inside the gym, it wasn’t clear what spurred that statement. Many reporters taking video and photos were in attendance, and some followed students into the hall. Large parts of the crowd then stood up and funneled into the hallway amid murmurs about the media. Confusion and disorder took over the crowd, finding some STEM students and others — a few dozen people — gathered outside the school’s front doors. SEE WALKOUT, P16

— Laura Reeves, with Moms Demand Action, an organization that supports gun reforms We are “not a statistic … we are people, not a statement.” — A student speaking on the microphone after students walked out and returned “It’s the adults that take (the issue of shootings) into their hands, and I strongly object to that.” — A student on the mic shortly after

U.S. Rep. Jason Crow speaks at a May 8 vigil at Highlands Ranch High School for STEM School shooting victims and survivors.

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