As students at Forest High School prepared to walk out of class in solidarity with the National School Walkout against gun violence, one student was shot at the Florida high school Friday morning. The school was put on lockdown and the injured student was taken to the hospital. The police suspect the shooter was another student at the Ocala, Florida school, the Associated Press reports.
Chris Oliver, the parent of a 16-year-old student at Forest High School, told the Associated Press his son saw the suspect shoot at a closed classroom door while standing in the hallway. Oliver's son said the shooter then dropped the gun and ran.
Ocala is about four hours north of Parkland, where 17 people were killed in the Valentine's Day mass shooting that sparked a previous student walkout, the national March For Our Lives, and Friday's National School Walkout. Parkland survivors have said they're fighting to ensure the tragedy they witnessed is the last school shooting — but Friday's shooting in their home state highlights that not much has changed regarding America's gun laws in the last two months. Although the activists have called for lawmakers to ban assault weapons and institute universal background checks, neither has happened on the federal level yet.
The Marion County sheriff's office said in a Facebook post that the suspected Forest High School shooter was taken into custody and confirmed that there was one injury. The sheriff's office also advised people to avoid the area and asked parents to pick up their students at a nearby church. Other schools in the area were put on a "code yellow" warning as a precaution while a SWAT team did a second sweep of the high school.
"Local, State and Federal Officers have responded to assist at all schools in Marion County, for an increased law enforcement presence at our schools," the Marion County sheriff's office posted.
Despite reports that there was also a shooting at nearby West Port High School, the sheriff's office said on Facebook that there was not a second incident.
A photo a Forest High school student posted to Twitter showed a mountain of desks being used as a shield against potential bullets. The student wrote that the shooting happened before the scheduled walkout meant to raise awareness about the prevalence of gun violence in schools, adding that the issue becomes even more real when it happens at your school.
“[School violence] has made its way home,” Forest High parent Tom Johnson told the local Ocala Star-Banner. “These are our babies. We need to protect them.”
Another parent, Rachael Carter, told the Associated Press she was "shaking like a leaf in a hurricane" while waiting to pick up her daughter, a 10th-grade student at Forest High School.
CNN reports there were 20 school shootings in the first 16 weeks of 2018, including Friday's incident in Ocala and the mass shooting in Parkland. The National School Walkout was planned to mark the 19th anniversary of the deadly Columbine High School shooting, as well as push lawmakers to strengthen America's gun laws. The walkout's website reads:
America is the only country in the world where so many people are killed by guns, and yet our leaders do nothing about it. In many states it’s more difficult to register to vote than it is to buy a rifle. Apparently to some politicians, a vote is scarier than a gun.
A school shooting happening the day of the walkout only proves student gun control activists' point: Shootings in American schools are far too frequent — and leaders need to do more to keep students alive.