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Safety On the Minds of Mooresville High Students And Staff

Mooresville High School was one of many schools in the Charlotte region where students walked out as part of a nationwide demonstration to bring attention to school safety. That’s been a major topic at the school since the Florida shootings, and since rumors of possible gun violence at the school itself sparked fears a week later.

Mooresville High Principal Eric Schwarzenegger said there was never a real threat.

Mooresville High School principal Eric Schwarzenegger
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Mooresville High School principal Eric Schwarzenegger

“Those rumors were looked into very early on in the process and in cooperation with our Mooresville Police Department," he said. "Unfortunately, the rumors continued and we had extra security on hand that day just as a precautionary measure."

Since then, Schwarzenegger and the Mooresville school district have stepped up discussions about the topic and urged students and parents to help by reporting threats.

Against that backdrop, Mooresville High's walkout was focused more broadly on school safety than on a specific issue like gun control - an issue that organizers say divides the community. Senior Abbey Gilchrist said students promoted it on social media with the hashtag #ComeTogetherStayTogether.

“There's so many different issues that go along with school safety," Gilchrist said. "We just wanted one safe place for everyone to be able to express all of those opinions and all of those ideas and so that everyone had the opportunity to have their voices heard.”

Mooresville High's walkout was organized by (from left) Abbey Gilchrist, Drew McComas, and Courtney Raven, as well as Diana Durk (not pictured). All are 17-year-old seniors and members of the school band.
Credit David Boraks / WFAE
Mooresville High's walkout was organized by (from left) Abbey Gilchrist, Drew McComas, and Courtney Raven, as well as Diana Durk (not pictured). All are 17-year-old seniors and members of the school band.

Gilchrist references issues such as mental health, police presence and what some students see as a lack of awareness of school safety procedures.

Fellow organizer Courtney Raven said it would have been too hard to carry out a rally in Mooresville around a topic as specific as gun control.

“I think for our event and our community … we'll never be able to, because there's so many people on either side that, as a community, we will never be able to narrow it down," Raven said. "I think having this space for everyone’s voice to be heard will help all of our representatives see where their people are."

The school has been discussing the theme of unity a lot this year, especially since February. Schwarzenegger said students approached him about doing a walkout, and he encouraged them – even convening a meeting where about 70 students came to help organize.

“They felt very strongly about it. I feel very strongly about it," Schwarzeneggar said. "I remember when I was in high school and Columbine happened … I remember that very very vividly. Schools are a place where we all work. We all have a stake in this and all have invested in making sure that our schools are safe."

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, about 400 of Mooresville High's 1,900 students gathered at gyms in two different buildings. Reporters weren't allowed, but video and photos show that some carried signs saying "Fear Has No Place In School" and "We Are Students, We Are Victims, We are Change."  

There was no moment of silence and no organized program.  Many students sprawled out on the gym floor and wrote letters. Some of those letters were condolences to the families of the Parkland shooting victims. Others were pleas to lawmakers for better gun control.

The students realize they aren't going to change the world all at once. Events like this are just the start, said Gilchrist.

“So we are here today to set that foundation which is why we're staying so broad and nonpartisan," she said. "But I do think that this issue will become narrow, or narrow just here in Mooresville, in the next few years."

They're already planning their next event - a march to town hall and rally for school safety March 24.


You can view the website for the March 24 event, here