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Iowa Students Leave Class To Support Survivors Of Parkland Shooting

Kate Payne

Joining students across the country, hundreds of Iowa students walked out of classes Wednesday to honor the 17 people killed at a school in Parkland, Florida one month ago. While some students were on spring break, others staged demonstrations in Dubuque, Davenport, Fairfield, Council Bluffs, Grinnell and West Liberty.

A small group of students at Maharishi University of Management gathered with staff and alumni at the Fairfield campus in southeast Iowa. Student Body President Cris Evergreen says the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting deserve support.

“They’re outspoken. They’re courageous. And we don’t want them to stand alone, I don’t want them to stand alone in their courage," Evergreen said.

Evergreen says mass shooting incidents are especially startling to the schools' international community, which has representatives from more than 80 different countries.

"The international students, they don’t really know what to think about it because they don’t have mass shootings in their homes or their hometowns or in their schools. They don’t have to worry about it. And they just are kind of taking it all in like, ‘This is what America is like'," Evergreen said. "And then for the people who are from America, from the U.S., and are used to it, they don't want to be used to it."

The shooting is pushing MUM to rethink its emergency protocols and campus support networks. Administrators are considering hiring a licensed mental health counselor, instead of referring students to off-campus doctors. Rod Eason is a vice president at the university, and says these violent incidents could be a real possibility campuses nationwide.

"It certainly brings heightened awareness to this as an issue that all schools have to be aware of across the country," Eason said, adding that the school is reviewing its active shooter drills. "We're in the process of reviewing those now and setting up practice runs and things like that so that we can make sure that we're adequately prepared."

Many Iowa students did not participate in a walkout on Wednesday. But some who did are already focusing on the next demonstration. Organizers in twelve Iowa cities are gearing up for what's being called the "March For Our Lives" on March 24th. The event is organized by students from Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who are calling on supporters to march in Washington D.C. and in communities across the country.

Others are preparing for another protest scheduled for April 20th to mark 19 years since the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.