Maria Carrillo High School students hold walkout Friday, demand improved safety measures
Traffic slowed and drivers honked their horns in support Friday afternoon as Maria Carrillo High School students marched down Montecito Boulevard to call attention to student concerns.
Students organized the walkout in response to mounting safety issues, which were amplified Wednesday following the fatal stabbing of a 16-year-old at Montgomery High School in Santa Rosa.
“We must increase communication, we must increase security, we must be safe in our school,” said Josephine Rivera-Hoagland, a senior at Maria Carrillo, as she addressed students through a megaphone.
On Wednesday, Jayden Jess Pienta, 16, of Santa Rosa, died after being stabbed during a fight inside Montgomery High School. Pienta and another 16-year-old student entered an art class and started a fight with a 15-year-old freshman.
A teacher and three staff members rushed to stop the fight but it resumed and ended with the younger student stabbing the other two with a folding knife. The second 16-year-old student suffered a stab to the hand.
Students and parents said the tragedy was not the first local incident to raise safety concerns. And, in a separate incident Wednesday, a Maria Carrillo High School student was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police and accused of bringing a gun to school. Rumors about someone having a gun were reported to police around 10:45 a.m. Wednesday — nearly 30 minutes before the fatal stabbing at Montgomery High School, 5 miles away.
Other security incidents over the past month at Maria Carrillo included a hoax involving a school shooting and a fire at the school.
Sophomore Sheikyelah Kahoro, 15, said during the Friday walkout that recent events have taken an emotional and psychological toll on her.
“Today I was in the bathroom and I had a weird conspiracy theory someone was going to come out and shoot me,” she said.
It didn’t matter that Wednesday’s stabbing happened at another school, she added; it was still indicative of safety issues affecting an entire school district and Maria Carrillo students “constantly talk about it.”
Friday’s walkout began with a gathering of students in the campus quad where speakers demanded school officials improve communication and safety.
Standing at the top of a staircase, students spoke as two others held a banner behind them with the message “Students for safety now.” Speakers emphasized a demand for change and better safety protocols.
“We need the eyes, ears and guidance of adults on campus to identify, intervene and redirect problems before they occur,” Rami Nacouzi, an 18-year-old senior, told his classmates. “We need the reassurance that comes with better emergency measures. We need not fear a knock at the door, unsure if there is danger on the other side.”
Following a series of statements, including two from Montgomery High School students, hundreds of students marched down Montecito Boulevard before turning around at Middle Rincon Road.
Rosemary Cromwell, a 17-year-old senior, said the majority of the student body participated. She said the line stretching down Montecito was “beautiful.”
“I’m so overwhelmed with emotion. This crowd stretches for blocks and blocks,” she said.
In an email sent to parents and staff just before Friday’s walkout, Principal Monique Luke said students would be marked absent from their fourth-period class and that available staff would accompany students.
“Students can exercise their right to protest, and we have worked with staff to make sure students exercise this right safely,” Luke said.
Not long after the walkout, Maria Carrillo High School went into lockdown for a report of a student with a gun at Rincon Valley Middle School. Santa Rosa Police confirmed the report was false, and the school reopened.
In a message to parents, Maria Carrillo principal Monique Luke said students sheltered in place at about 1:45 p.m. Friday before entering lockdown, which was lifted at 2:05 p.m.
“Our staff and students did an outstanding job of following our safety protocols,” the principal wrote.
You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or email@example.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.
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