Rufus King students stage walkout, demand MPS take action in aftermath of shooting

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Friday afternoon, Feb. 4, hundreds of Rufus King High School students walked out of class, protesting recent gun violence and the school district's efforts to keep them safe.

Those students called out systemic violence, not just the Tuesday night shooting that injured five people.

Senior Class President Matthew Moore led the student body in reciting an anti-violence pledge: "I will never bring a gun to school."

It was a pledge for peace, and a call to action.

Sophomore Class Vice President Karrington Parrish told the crowd, "I am demanding that we hold our MPS administration and school board members accountable."

While Sophomore Class President Mia Moore said, "We should not fear for our safety in school."

Earlier in the day, the Milwaukee Police Department announced the suspected shooter turned himself in. MPD did not release his name, only saying he's a 34-year-old man.

Sophomore Class Vice President Karrington Parrish said, "Over the last few months at our school, I haven't felt completely safe because of the school threats we have gotten every other week."

The angry students made it clear: fear of violence has been a sad and regular part of their lives for a long time. Student Alexander Gramajo said, "Time and time again we bear witness to reckless behavior fueled by gun violence."

Several students addressed the crowd, decrying what they characterize as a chronic lack of communication from MPS.

"I feel that MPS must do a better job of communicating threats towards our school effectively and efficiently to parents, students and teachers," Parrish said.

MPS Board President Bob Peterson attended the rally in solidarity with the students' call to action. He said he's eager to work with them and community stakeholders to improve student safety.

"I think a number of people have been pushing for this for quite some time," he said. "But when you see crowds like this and enthusiasm of students, it's an extra push, and we appreciate that. I think all elected officials need those kind of pushes."

MPS administrators were not available for an interview, but sent a statement that read in part, "The district will continue to explore additional ways of ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff while working with our community leaders and stakeholders to help create a safer city for all."

But that could take time. Students Friday said their lives are impacted by gun violence right now.

Gramajo said, "We demand student resources in place where officers were strapped with guns. We demand communal voices be heard. We demand practices of hyper-policing to be disbanded. We demand safety and we demand serenity."

And they say change cannot come from them alone.

Student Brigid Flanders said, "We call on other schools within our district, as well as outside the district, to rally, make noise, and seek peace within their own school environment."

Arnitta Holliman, the director of the city's Office of Violence Prevention, reminded everyone the stakes are high. She said, "This is about every single child in this community, this is about every single school, this is about every single city block."

Monday, Feb. 7, MPS administrators will hold a parent meeting at Rufus King High School.

Read the full statement from MPS in response to the student-led walkout:

Milwaukee Public Schools is aware of the action taken by Rufus King International High School students to protest gun violence in our community. While the district does not endorse truancy, we respect the opinions and concerns of our students and families. We look forward to furthering this dialogue during the parent meeting at King on Monday, February 7, 2022. In the meantime, the district will continue to explore additional ways of ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff while working with our community leaders and stakeholders to help create a safer city for all.
-Statement from MPS administration
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