LAKELAND — Standing with hundreds of other Lakeland High School students, freshman Amaya Serrano said Wednesday she was fed up with a lack of gun control regulations.

"We shouldn't even have to be here," said Serrano, 14. "Guns across the country are out of control."

Students at Lakeland High and across Polk County joined thousands of others nationwide Wednesday in a protest.

Serrano joined LHS and Harrison School for the Arts students on the LHS football field off U.S. 98 at 10 a.m. The vocal protest marked one month since the Parkland shootings that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Walkouts lasted 17 minutes to honor the 17 people who were killed.

Serrano said she was proud of fellow students who "did something instead of just sitting and talking."

Freshman Katie Van Billiard, 15, holding a sign that read "Parkland Strong," agreed that students at the school have come together over the gun-control issue.

"There are people here I would never expect to fight this cause," Billiard said.

The students walked to a fence to speak with members of the media, who were not allowed on campus. Members of the League of Women Voters stood on a sidewalk off U.S. 98, holding signs that protested gun violence, such as "Ban the AR-15," "Too many gun deaths," "Gun safety is not anti-gun" and "Thoughts and prayers don't stop gun violence."

The 17-minute protest at Lakeland High was filled with anger at times. Hundreds of students standing at the fence started chants — some filled with expletives — against the NRA and President Donald Trump.

Freshman James Bianco, 15, said the walkout was somewhat split between students who were there to memorialize the tragedy and students more focused on tighter gun-control measures.

None of the students interviewed said they supported arming school staff.

"I wouldn't be comfortable with it," Serrano said.

"I trust my teachers and staff but guns shouldn't be allowed on campus," Billiard said.

Walkouts were expected to occur at other high schools in Polk, including George Jenkins, Ridge Community, Tenoroc, Lake Gibson, Auburndale and Bartow.

At International Baccalaureate in Bartow, senior Lily Burse, 17, helped organize the walkout for students at IB, Bartow High School and Summerlin Academy.

Burse and her fellow organizers handed out 800 orange arm bands to be worn in an expression of solidarity. Unlike the LHS protest, Burse said their walkout was more of a memorial.

The organizing group, which goes by Students Against Latent Terror (SALT), focused more on remembering those killed in Parkland.

Seventeen students read names of those who were killed, a rose was placed on the track at the Bartow High stadium for each student, and speeches were given about what the group plans to do to curb gun violence.

The next step will be March 24 in Munn Park when members of SALT plan to protest gun violence and hold a voter registration drive for many of the students who are already 18 or will be turning 18 in the coming months.

"We believe there is no place for guns in our schools," Burse said. "Right now, we feel like a lot of regulations are slipping through the cracks."

For more information about SALT and the upcoming protest, go to

"We plan to make some noise," Burse said.

John Chambliss can be reached at or 863-802-7588.