Student gun reform activist: 'Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough ... we need action'

Student activists walked out of classes, marched and rallied to push for gun reform and safer schools this spring. On Friday, they found themselves "horrified" to learn about a deadly high school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, southeast of Houston.

At least 10 people were killed and 10 people wounded, according to news reports Friday afternoon as the investigation continued.

“Our hearts are broken by the tragic events in Santa Fe today," Anastasia Diakonis, 17, a junior and student activist from Colleyville-Heritage High School told the Star-Telegram. "We are shocked and appalled by this. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough to fix this. We need action. This can never happen again.”

Texas high students were attending classes, participating in end-of-the-year events and gearing up for upcoming graduations when the latest high school mass shooting occurred. Students lamented the Santa Fe High School would be mourning instead of celebrating the end of school and planning summer vacations.

"I am so frustrated that this keeps happening over and over again," said Katie Silverman, 18, a senior at Southlake Carroll Senior High School. "Santa Fe, I stand with you, with Parkland and with all the other schools that have been affected by senseless gun violence. I will continue to fight for all students' safety in America."

Carroll students hastily organized a candlelight vigil Friday in support of the victims.

The National School Walkout movement called for student activists to hold a moment of silence for the victims of Santa Fe, Texas.

Flags at Fort Worth schools will be lowered at half staff, the district announced in a press release. The district stated that Gov. Greg Abbott ordered Texas flags to fly at half staff in memory of the victims. Fort Worth schools Superintendent Kent Scribner issued a statement to the district's 10,000-plus employees.

"Once again we are immensely saddened by the loss of innocent lives in a tragic shooting at a school ... this time at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, Texas," Scribner said in the statement.

A focus on victims

Lalita Kunamneni's belief in gun reform prompted her to participate in a recent rally in downtown Dallas alongside dozens of young people from North Texas and moms against gun violence. On Friday, she was in a science class when she heard the news of the Santa Fe shooting.

"I’m horrified that another shooting has happened, and even one death is too many," the 16-year-old junior from Flower Mound Marcus High School told the Star-Telegram. "I’m so sorry for the family, friends, and teachers of the victims who lost someone dear to them and suffered through such a traumatic event. "

Kunamneni urged people to focus on the victims.

"I refuse to acknowledge the names of the shooters — it’s been said that the fact that school shooters gain this kind of notoriety is one of the reasons why the number of them is growing, so I will not."

Silverman said the Santa Fe school community will have to attend funerals and heal at a time when they should be planning their futures.

"As students we should not have to worry about dying while furthering our education and parents should not live in fear of sending their kids to school," she said.

Dakota Rudzik, a student at Keller Central High School, said the victims' families will always hurt from the pain of losing someone in a mass shooting.

"In two months, it may be forgotten, but those children still aren't home. Their bedrooms are still empty and they still aren't laughing and having fun like they were supposed to," Rudzik said.

'We must keep fighting'

The shooting reinforced for North Texas student activists the notion that gun reform and school safety are issues that remain unresolved by lawmakers and communities.

"It's time to acknowledge that something is very wrong," Rudzik told the Star-Telegram. "Week by week, children are murdered in their place of education."

Anika Shah, a junior from Southlake Carroll Senior High School, said she blames lawmakers for being complacent about gun reform.

"Texas is all over the headlines now due to the events at Santa Fe High School and it is so so scary for me to see that," Shah said. "I am shocked and upset, but I’m not surprised. The most important takeaway is that we must keep fighting before more lives are viciously taken."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

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