Photojournalist + Editorial Photographer



Students participate in walkout, school takes everything away from them.


On Wednesday February 21, Tallahassee sparked a nationwide school walkout. While thousands were marching at the Capitol, others all over the country were participating in solidarity. In Palm Beach County, students at West Boca High even walked out and walked 10 miles to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for a moment of silence. I’ve personally been witnessing this remarkable revolution hosted by our youth. My goosebumps have been permanent. It wasn't until my journey back south, after finishing my coverage in Tallahassee, that I happened upon a serious pile of bs. I received word that students at Sebastian River Middle school had been given harsh repercussions for participating in the walkout. At 12pm, 8th graders Tessa Haraldsen and Mariah Skolinsky walked off campus with multiple well wishes from teachers, and joined the High School a few blocks away, who were also taking action. The faculty at Sebastian River were all warned the day prior, to a potential walkout, via email, stating that no students would receive any consequences if they chose to leave, so allow them to.

But the girls were eventually escorted back to Sebastian River by police, and were immediately brought into the school office, where they would receive their list of punishments, starting with internal suspension that very day. They've also been removed from all extracurricular activities which include color guard and volleyball. They are not allowed to go to their 8th grade dance, or attend Grad Bash. And as for this Saturday they will be spending another day in internal suspension. They were made examples of.

Tessa was confused. She couldn't understand why just that very week she had handed in a paper about The Big 6 (civil rights leaders)  to the same teacher that would write her up for leaving. “I was doing what I thought was right, I was just taught to do that.”

When Mariah got home, her mother asked her to write down for her why she chose to walkout.

In Mariah’s paper she states facts and stats about gun violence in US schools. She also tells her mother that the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas was incredibly traumatizing.

“I felt like I needed to understand why, and when I read the last” - mom, Michelle Cox

Mariah writes, “As a young female, i have discovered our voices are never heard. We are taught to keep quite {sic} because our opinions never mattered in the past, but its my goal to make our opinions matter in the future, starting with this walkout, i will no longer let anyone tell me my opinion on something is stupid. I protested not only for gun control, but for safety and as a young girl, to be heard.”

This generation feels this so heavily because it is all they know. For them there has never been a before. They don’t get to reminisce about when things were good and they felt safe. We’ve robbed them of that right. Can’t you understand that growing up with such constant intense threats, has molded these children into something far from childlike. “We can’t ignore the facts, just because we’re kids.” Tessa says.

The very next day, the girls went back to school, and were greeted with a gunman threat, and a random fire alarm. Students were crying, preparing themselves for the worst, and Mariah had to leave school early, because her fear was unbearable.

But yet we fault them for standing up. For walking out. For leaving. We shut them down. These kids should receive Hazardous Duty awards every single day they are even able to show up. It’s incredibly abusive that the same people who guided their country in this direction, are the same people forcing them to ride it out.

The school should have had their back. It amazes me how quickly the disturbance of walking out of class is dealt with, and yet we’re still unable to take on those walking in.

“they told us they didn't want us leaving because we wouldn't be safe, but obviously they can’t keep us safe on the inside either.” - Tessa

After this week of hell for every young person across the country, the last thing we should do is take more away from them. That's on another level victim shaming. I'm calling on anyone who has walked out on school, anyone who maybe wanted to but was too afraid to, anyone who wants to take part in this movement but maybe hasn't had the opportunity to, here is your chance. We get them their stuff back! 

Repost. Repost. Repost. 

Tag friends. Tag family. Tag news networks. 

On top of that, we show up by calling and contacting. 

Principal: Jody Idlette-Brown
Asst Principal:  Jacqueline Contri  EMAIL -
Asst Principal:  James Thimmer  EMAIL -

Phone 772-564-5111

Let's fix this. Saturday is rapidly approaching.  


UPDATE  02/23/18

I contacted the school this morning and have since spoken with Principal Jody Idlette, in regards to Tessa and Mariah. Let me clarify a few things, first, the gunman threat and fire alarm happened at the high school and not the middle school. The middle schoolers only heard about it, and started to get scared. Second, the school was warned a few hours before the walkout not the day before. So the email was sent out a few hours before. Another thing is that the principal is adamant that their after school sports were never taken away from them because they don't have any, Volleyball season is over, and she states that they do not have a color guard. But Mariah goes to the multipurpose room on her campus on Wednesdays for a class called Color Guard 101, put on by the high school girls for any incoming freshman interested. So I’m not sure what’s happening here. I assume Principal Idlette is unaware that this club exists. Principal Idlette is also insistent that the girls disobeyed orders to return back to the school, and that once they were returned, were apologetic and said they didn't know why they would do something stupid like that. The parents of both students claim this never happened while on speaker phone with them. 

It was also brought to my attention that there were 8 other students involved in the walkout. Who apparently got into altercations with teachers, about leaving campus. Then walked to a Burger King. I have not been able to verify this story with any of those students yet. But after following up with Tessa and Mariah, It is important to note that they were not with that group of students, and walked off only with each other. Never being approached by anyone. And made it to the high school, where they were congratulated by students there. 

So this is a huge he said she said right now. I am in the works of contacting the police officer who brought the girls back to school, to verify that they did actually make it to the high school and not Burger King. 

Parents are working on setting up a meeting with the school this week to rectify this situation. 

ACLU also just put out a notice that students who receive harsher punishments for participating in a walkout, than the punishment they'd receive if they skipped class for some other reason, is indeed a first amendment right violation. 

No one involved in this is objecting to the reality of consequences for skipping school. They are manly objecting to the violation of their rights by the school, for administering repercussions harsher than those that would be given if they were not protesting. 


UPDATE 02/26/18

I've left multiple messages with the Sheriff's office. No one has returned my calls for a statement and a verification that the girls were picked up from the high school. 

I have also received a written statement from the high school student who saw them in the office of her school, and spoke to them. 

The girls also received a written statement from their teacher that read them the email, and who knew they were participating, wished them well, and told them to be safe before they left campus.

The school has now since planned a march for March  14, 2018.

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