All was quiet in Firestone High School until 9:50 a.m. Wednesday.

As the clock ticked closer to 10 a.m., students began abandoning their Akron classroom seats and stepping into the hallway. And within minutes, hundreds flooded the halls, headed to the doors and stepped into the cold to take a stand against gun violence.

Firestone Community Learning Center was one of thousands of schools nationwide that participated in walkouts at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Students across the country walked out of their schools for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people who died in a high school shooting a month ago in Parkland, Fla.

Before their walkout, student leaders at Firestone put together a list of demands to present to the Akron Board of Education and their own school to keep them safer.

Megan May and Bree Chambers, the students who organized the walkout, originally planned to march to the school board office after the walkout to present their demands. They later decided to address the board at a later date to give members time to consider the ideas, which include keeping teachers unarmed and incorporating more mental health support into the school.

“I think it could be easily misconstrued as us attacking them in some way. ... This is about us working with them,” said Chambers, one of the founders of the Student Coalition Against Violence at Firestone. The student-led organization was born from rising concerns among students about school safety in the month since the Florida shooting.

The students made their concerns loud and clear for those 17 minutes they were outside.

Students began by gathering in the common area of the school a few minutes before 10 a.m., and in the moments they were walking outside, chaos seemed imminent. Some students screamed, banged on lockers and yelled expletives about shooters.

But once outside, students assembled along Castle Boulevard across the street from the school, while a handful of leaders from the student coalition perched on a hill near the building and took charge.

They began their 17 minutes with a moment of silence to stand in solidarity with the victims of the Florida shooting.

Then, one by one, organizers took the megaphone to recite speeches and poems they prepared for the day.

“Our drive is rooted in prevention. We’re lost way too many lives already,” May said. “But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. ... We are building ourselves to be that light.”

The crowd of students listened intently as snow whipped around their faces, getting loud only to cheer in support of the students leading.

Not all students participated in the walkout, but sophomore Viraaj Kurri estimated that 95 percent of his class did.

Not all teachers supported it, either, added his friend Jeremy Lohr.

Lohr, a sophomore, said his teacher told all students they need to complete their work before leaving class — which he did.

“This is too important to miss just because someone doesn’t like it,” Lohr said.

While there has been debate among participants about the motivations behind the walkout, most participants at Firestone agreed on wanting stricter gun control.

“[Violence] could be reduced if there was more gun control in our lives and at school, where we should be planning for our future,” sophomore Ashley Strub said. “But it’s kind of distracting when there’s the fear of our lives being taken away.”

A few outside adults were scattered behind the kids as well, standing in silent solidarity as the kids took the lead.

“It was wonderful seeing the kids out here leading the way to sanity and security,” said the Rev. John Beaty, a social activist and retired United Methodist pastor who lives in the area.

“It was inspiring,” added his wife, Linda Beaty. “It took a lot of bravery for them to come out.”

Organizing the walkout was a “collaborative and transparent experience” among students, administrators, security teams and city police, Firestone Principal Larry Johnson said. Compromises were made. Johnson suggested the kids stay inside, but they pushed back. Student leaders planned their post-walkout march to the board of education, but Johnson gave them until 10:25 a.m. to be back to their classes before they received consequences.

Johnson said he anticipates teachers will continue using the walkout as a learning experience in classrooms.

And the student coalition plans to present its demands to administrators soon and work with them until those demands are met. Student leaders are also planning a trip to the state capital to advocate for stricter gun control.

“We will not rest until we know that we are safe in our schools,” May said.

Theresa Cottom can be reached at 330-996-3216 or tcottom@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @Theresa_Cottom.

Inside

■ Hundreds of Stow youths defy adults with peaceful assembly on grounds of high school. A4

■ Kent-Roosevelt students brave cold, pass out flyers promoting stricter gun control in U.S. A5

■ Florida shooting suspect, 19, refuses to speak at arraignment on charges in massacre. A6