Lillian Scott is a high school student in Fort Worth, more than 1,300 miles from where the most recent school shooting left students and teachers dead, rekindling the debate on gun violence.
Scott, 16, a junior at Paschal High School, can't shake the deep sadness that came with the shooting. And the feelings of loss intensified as she watched videos about the 17 victims on social media.
"These were students just like the students that I go to school with," Scott told the Star-Telegram in a Facebook Messenger interview. "These were athletes, members of the band, choir and orchestra. These students were either just beginning high school or just ending high school and beginning to prepare themselves for college."
Scott and her friend Lucy Ariola, 17, felt they had to do something.
On Sunday night they started organizing a March For Our Lives event aimed at bringing attention to gun violence and school safety in North Texas. The Fort Worth march is a part of a national movement.
"We hope to make our elected officials hear our voices," Scott said. "Students are losing their lives while those in charge are doing nothing. We want to have a large turnout and have our elected officials feel the pressure to make change regarding gun control."
March For Our Lives is a national event planned for March 24. Students, parents, teachers and supporters of gun control and school safety are marching to Washington, D.C. Sister marches have been announced on social media across the country and in several other Texas cities, including Dallas, Houston and Austin.
"It is time for change. Not one more life can be lost in a school shooting," Scott said. "Fear has no place in our schools."
School districts prepare for walkouts
Since the shootings, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School have shared their message against gun violence in speeches, interviews, social media and on TV news shows. Students have also been walking out of classrooms to make a stand against gun violence. One Southeast Texas school district made news when the superintendent announced students who walk out face suspensions.
In Tarrant County, several school districts said students would face unexcused absences if they miss class. For example, in Fort Worth schools, students walking out to protest gun violence would be treated the same way students who recently walked out to protest a lack of immigration reform.
"The principal of the school will make contact with the parent or guardian of each student to make sure they know the student made the choice to leave," district spokesman Clint Bond saidl. "School personnel will not attempt to stop the students but will advise them of the consequences. If students continue to participate in a walkout school staff and police will accompany them to help ensure their safety."
In Birdville schools, administrators are taking a similar approach.
"If students walk out, they are still responsible for any work missed, but the district will not take a confrontational stance if they leave," Mark Thomas, district spokesman, said in an email. "However, students will be encouraged to use another forum that will allow them to thoughtfully share their concerns."
'Address these gun issues'
March For Our Lives Fort Worth is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 24 at the Tarrant County Courthouse, 100 Weatherford St.
"We are organizing this march to demand that our lives and safety become a priority for our elected officials," Scott said. "We are marching to end gun violence and mass shootings in our schools today. The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues."
Scott said she hopes students of all ages will join the Fort Worth movement — from elementary to college.
"We are the future and the present," she said. "We should take it upon ourselves to let our voices be heard and make change."
Scott said students today attend classes knowing police officers and security guards are on campus to protect them. Still, they attend classes as school shootings become more common.
"School shootings have become a widespread problem in the United States, which has caused me to worry about my safety at school. It is awfully sad that we have to perform lockdown drills so often at our schools because of the fact that our school safety is not ensured," she said.