Daniel Island, S.C. (WCIV) — Empowered about being part of the National School Walkout movement, Bishop England ninth grader Joey Benton walked out of school grounds for 17 minutes on Wednesday rather than participate in the school’s prayer service in the courtyard.
He was the only student to walk out in this manner, holding a handmade sign that read, “We will not BE next,” with the Bishop England logo forming the word “be.”
One month after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, thousands of students in schools across the country participated in a walkout to demand action on gun control and an end to school violence.
Students rallied nationwide to walk out of school at 10 a.m. Wednesday for 17 minutes—one minute for each of the victims of the school shooting.
Instead of a school walkout, the Daniel Island Catholic school held a 17-minute prayer service in the school’s courtyard Wednesday morning.
Benton, however, chose instead to walk out of the building.
While Benton said he supported the school’s decision to hold the prayer service, he wanted to demonstrate by walking out of the school grounds.
“I wanted to go out and hold a sign and politely and respectfully walk out of school instead of do the prayer,” he said Wednesday evening.
“This walkout movement moment was something I could relate to—it hit me dearly,” he said. “As a high school student, feeling like this could happen to me at any moment was a good opportunity to stand up for my beliefs and I decided to walk out of the school.”
Benton said he spoke with the school principal beforehand about his plan, and a teacher accompanied him the entire time to ensure safety.
During the 17 minutes, Benton said he thought about the victims of the Florida school shooting and how students can bring about change.
“I was thinking about people who lost their lives in unfortunate ways and the leaders and congressmen and lawmakers whose decision is in their hands to change things for the betterment of students,” Benton said. “I feel very empowered to have been part of a group wanting to make a real change. I have no regrets and I would do it again.”
Benton adds he was still able to catch the end of the school’s prayer service.