About 1,000 Foothill students joined others around the Tri-Valley and the country in walking out of class Wednesday morning to support gun reform and to commemorate the victims of the Parkland school shooting.
Students who participated in the march and rally -- part of National School Walkout Day across the Bay Area and U.S. -- began at 10 a.m. at the school's quad area facing Foothill Boulevard, circled around the front science building, and then returned to the quad, all the while chanting "Enough is enough."
Sophomore Alexander Chen, who was one of the event's organizers, said the Parkland, Fla. shooting last month was a "wake-up call."
"We hope to send a message to Congress and the government, that everyone is in on this issue, and we all call for reform, even teenagers who may not have the right to vote yet," Chen said. "And that gun reform is definitely needed across the country."
The event was facilitated by the school and the district, with officials saying they wanted to provide a safe space for the students to voice their opinions. Student-led events also took place at Amador Valley and Village high schools and all three PUSD middle schools.
Signs at Foothill featured a range of messages, from "Protect kids not guns" to "Never forget." Many also held smaller papers that all began "I am..." and concluded with the name of an individual victim from one of the mass school shootings that had occurred since Columbine.
Upon returning to the quad after the march, a few students waving an American flag and a "Don't tread on me" flag spoke out in favor of citizens' Second Amendment rights to bear arms. The much larger group of students advocating for gun control soon circled around the counter-protesters and the two sides got involved in a debate for about 20 minutes.
Superintendent David Haglund, who was at the Foothill walkout, said the event went exactly as they had hoped, with the students engaged in dialogue.
"Our kids in Pleasanton are incredible," Haglund said. "They are articulate, they do have opinions. And they have thought about these types of issues. It was really impressive to me that at the conclusion of the entire conversation, all of them, regardless of what position they were taking, got quiet and had a moment of silence for the students who lost their lives in Florida. They were able to get back to the reason they came out in the first place."
Editor's note: This story was updated March 21 to address a point of clarification. Pleasanton Unified School District spokesman Patrick Gannon said that district and school officials worked to help facilitate the walkouts to guarantee students' safety and right to free speech, but the events were not endorsed by officials through a formal approval process.