Thousands of students walked out of classes across the country Wednesday to demand lawmakers take action on gun safety following a mass shooting at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.
Students at dozens of schools across at least 11 states walked out in protest, according to local media reports, estimates from school districts and USA TODAY Network reporters on the scene.
Advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, which coordinated the walkouts through Students Demand Action, said there were more than 300 demonstrations across at least 41 states and D.C. to kick off a “week of action” by gun safety advocates and gun violence survivors.
Ryley Collins, 15, a volunteer with Students Demand Action who helped lead a walkout at Jasper High School in Plano, Texas, said she and her classmates wanted to “make sure our lawmakers understand that we want more than just thoughts and prayers.”
“We want to be safe in our schools and we want them to take action to protect our lives, not the gun industry’s profits,” Collins said.
Walkouts also took place in states including Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.
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In Uvalde, Texas, dozens of high school students left classes, local news outlets reported. Last year, an 18-year-old former student fatally shot 19 children and two teachers and injured 17 others at one of the town’s elementary schools.
“Children shouldn’t have to walk out of class so that adults can find the political will to do something to keep them safe,” said Texas Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat, in a statement.
And in Dallas, “hundreds” of students walked out of classes, the Dallas Independent School District said.
North Carolina saw school walkouts across several districts. In the Charlotte area, thousands of students at five high schools staged peaceful walkouts, said Eddie Perez, spokesperson for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Some could be seen leaving classes holding signs overhead, WSOC-TV reported.
In South Florida, around 100 students left classes at South Broward High School, according to local WSVN-TV. On Monday, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that eliminates licensing requirements for Florida residents to carry a concealed firearm in most public places.
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Elementary, middle school students join national school walkout
Younger students also participated in the demonstrations: Approximately 350 students walked out of classes at a middle school in Ladue, Missouri, for instance, and about 300 middle and high school students walked out in Melrose, Massachusetts, spokespeople for the respective districts said.
In Maplewood, Missouri, more than 300 elementary, middle and high school students participated in demonstrations, said Ed Rich, spokesperson for the Maplewood Richmond Heights School District.
The district shared photos of the event at one elementary school showing 11-year-olds lined up against a playground fence, holding signs that read “Protect children not guns” and “We are the future.” At the high school event, students observed six minutes of silence, representing each of the six victims of the Nashville school shooting, Rich said.
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National school walkout follows Nashville elementary school shooting
The walkouts come one day after hundreds of high school and college students left class across Nashville and Middle Tennessee on Monday as part of a demonstration coordinated by national gun reform organization March For Our Lives. The students were joined by thousands more as they marched to the state Capitol.
More:Protesters demand gun control in noisy protest at Tennessee Capitol
Last week, a 28-year-old former student armed with two AR-style weapons killed three children and three adult staff members at a small, private Christian elementary school.
Following the shooting, Tennessee’s Republican-controlled legislature delayed all firearms-related bills by at least one week.
President Joe Biden called on Congress to act, saying he has exhausted what he can do through executive action on gun control.
Contributing: Nashville Tennessean staff
Reach criminal justice reporter Grace Hauck via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @grace_hauck.