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Staten Island Students Walk Out Of Classes To Protest Recent Violence At Susan E. Wagner High School

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Thousands of students at Susan E. Wagner High School on Staten Island staged a walkout Monday to protest ongoing violence at their school.

Parents at the school, one of many in New York City where weapons have been confiscated amid increasing violence, said the Department of Education needs to take steps to protect their kids, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported.

Even before the protest started, police from the local precinct rushed to the school because, according to the school safety union, there was a threat that a gunman was coming to shoot the students when they walked out.

It was a dramatic way to make their point. Students said they're sick and tired of being afraid to go to school, so they decided to exercise what they call their First Amendment right to protest and walked out of classes during fifth period.

"I feel like we deserve to feel safe at school. We shouldn't be afraid to go to school because of violence," said student Sofia Zall. "We're kids. We shouldn't be dealing with this. We deserve to go to school and learn and have fun with our friends, and it's just not fair."

"The violence, it's bad. We're all traumatized. Last week, everybody left the school. It was bad," another student said.

"This is an ongoing thing and I feel like it's an issue that really needs to stop. Kids shouldn't feel scared to come to school," said student Justina Muniz.

"I'm very concerned about this. This is craziness. I had to stay home from school all of last week. I'm very scared for my life to come here. We already had to shelter in again today. This is craziness. It has to stop," said student Eva Rodriguez.

CBS2's cameras spotted a police officer unable to get into the school because the doors were locked when students were ordered to shelter in place until there was an all clear.

Gregory Floyd, head of the school safety union, said the city needs to up its game because school violence is soaring all over the city.

"Give young people a lot of credit, they understand what's going on, the narrative. They are begging, begging for protection. They need more school safety agents, they need metal detectors, they need tougher laws, they need to know that young children, teenagers, can't carry guns and not be punished," said Floyd.

The students were protesting incidents like a wild brawl at the school in late October. A school safety agent was dragged to the floor trying to stop a 13-year-old who was later arrested after she allegedly used a kitchen knife to menace other students.

That incident prompted the Department of Education to stage an unannounced screening with a dozen agents from four boroughs. The screening netted brass knuckles, pepper spray and a knife.

There was another fight outside the school last week. Exit doors were secured and students had to stay inside after a 16-year-old and a 19-year-old reported being assaulted near the track and football fields.

One victim was struck with a gun across the face, police said.

"Metal detectors need to be installed permanently," said Billy Contreras, a parent. "Where's the metal detectors? This past week, they only had metal detectors on Tuesday and Wednesday. How about the rest of the week?"

"Should there be full-time scanning equipment here?" Kramer asked parents.

"Oh, hells yeah. I completely support it 1 billion percent," said Dawn DiGiovanni.

"What do you want the Department of Education to do?" Kramer asked.

"To me, it feels like a lot of cover-up. Just be honest and open with the parents," said Farrah Sammon. "People are shutting us out and not telling us things and. It's scary."

The Department of Education insisted safety is a "paramount priority."

A DOE spokesperson said unannounced scanning will be held with "greater frequency" and there will be staggered dismissals to decrease the number of students congregating outside at any time.

A town hall meeting was scheduled at the school for Monday night.

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