Thousands of NJ students stage walkout to protest gun violence

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EDISON -

Thousands of New Jersey students from schools across the state staged a walkout protest Wednesday in support of stronger gun control and school safety.

The protests were part of a nationwide effort for greater gun control in the wake of the mass shooting at Stoneman-Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen people were killed in that shooting.

The protests began at 10 a.m. and many lasted 17 minutes to mark the 17 lives taken.

RELATED: US students walk out over gun violence
Photos: NJ Students participate in nationwide school walkout

Many of the school walkouts were held with full support from school administrators.

"It's been very positive, very supportive. They wanted us to have this walkout,” says Bayonne High School student Victor Lazaro. “Our principal has been very supportive as well. He has been one of the backbones in this walkout."

Many schools that did not stage walkouts still held special events in the classroom. Asbury Park students wrote letters to state lawmakers asking for greater gun control and for ways to curb violence inside schools.

In Montville, students held a moment of violence and read a poem written by one of their classmates to remember the victims. The students said that they believe stronger gun control will happen in their generation.

"So many people are dying for no reason, and I think that it's time for a change,” said Montville senior Larisa Prince. “The millennials and the generations after us will actually be able to make this change.”

But not all schools were supportive of the nationwide protest. Sayreville school officials said that anyone who left school would face disciplinary action.

That did not stop a small group of Sayreville High School students, who joined in on the protest regardless.

"I don't really care if I get suspended.  I talked to my parents about it and they said…’If you get suspended, it doesn't really matter,” said student Rosa Rodriguez.

News 12 New Jersey later learned that Rodriguez was not suspended for her actions Wednesday.

The New Jersey chapter of the ACLU sent a letter to Sayreville school administrators expressing their concern about the school restricting the students’ free speech. The ACLU urged any students who got in trouble for walking out to contact them.

Hackensack High School was forced to cancel its walkout after security concerns were brought to the attention of school administrators. Officials did not release the nature of the threat, but security was increased at the school. Instead of a walkout, student organizers shared a presentation in support of the movement that was streamed to all classrooms.

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