Some students counter-protested or stayed in class during school marches

While many of his classmates walked out of Mundelein High School at 10 a.m. today to participate in a nationwide, student-led 17-minute protest against gun violence, Christian Loar remained inside.

It's not that the 17-year-old senior disagrees with the sentiment, he just disagrees with the method.

"I believe this event should not take place during the school day and there are much better ways to address this issue," he wrote in an email about his decision. "I appreciate what they're doing, but for me, I will show my support in other ways."

Christian Loar

Loar is among suburban students who did not participate in the walkout against gun violence for reasons ranging from philosophical differences to a desire to avoid possible disciplinary action.

In Barrington, some students carrying signs mounted a counter protest.

Junior Peter Schnaubelt, wearing a red "Make America Great Again" hat and holding a U.S. flag and a "More Armed Security = Safer Schools" sign, said he represented students whose opinions on guns are not commonly heard.

"I guess our big thing is teachers that already have a concealed-carry permit should be able to carry at school," Schnaubelt said while walking down Hough Street.

Mundelein High School senior Nathan DuPont said he stayed in class because he believes real change only happens at the ballot box.

"I am in no way denying there is a problem plaguing our country, however, I don't feel as though a walkout will accomplish much," DuPont said. "If innocent Americans losing their life doesn't spark change, why would people leaving class for 17 minutes suddenly catch the attention of our government? People my age and older need to go out and vote, as we are the least represented age group in elections."

The nationwide protest was organized following the shooting deaths of 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a month ago.

None of Loar's protesting classmates will face disciplinary action for their participation in the walkout, but that's not the case in other suburban school districts.

Administrators from Batavia, Downers Grove, Wauconda and Algonquin-based Community Unit District 300 notified students and parents about potential consequences if students left campus or disrupted the school day.

"Our top priority is to maintain a safe environment for all students, while respecting the constitutional rights of students to protest," Downers Grove High School District 99 Superintendent Hank Thiele wrote in a letter to parents. "However, leaving class unexcused is a violation of school rules and will result in disciplinary action."

Thiele warned that the minimum punishment could be an hour detention, but students with past infractions could face more severe discipline. About 1,100 of the district's 4,800-plus students ignored the threat, Thiele reported.

Students at District 300's high schools were told they could face "swift" discipline for leaving any of the school buildings to protest, according to Superintendent Fred Heid.

"(We) will not support an activity that takes our students outside of the building," he wrote in an email to parents after plans for the national protest were formalized.

While both Mundelein seniors said they have friends participating in the protest, they have been respectful of Loar's and DuPont's choice not to join in.

"None of my friends are pressuring me to participate, so I have not received any flak for my decision," he said.

• Daily Herald Staff Writer Bob Susnjara contributed to this report.

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