CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBS) — Hundreds of students walked out of class on Tuesday morning to support a teacher who was placed an administrative leave.
AP history teacher Timothy Locke was placed on administrative leave after voicing his concerns over security at Cherry Hill High School East following the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The students marched along a nearby street and around the school track to support Locke. According to students and parents, Locke spoke out forcefully last week about the need for the high school to beef up security following the Parkland school shooting that left 17 dead.
Afterwards, a student was so distraught that she was escorted by another teacher to the principal’s office. This incident led to the decision to place Locke on leave.
Some parents came out to support the student protest.
“One of the girls from East posted an amazing post on Facebook last night, and I knew they were marching and I said good for them, I wanted to do something,” said parent Rachel Kirkham.
Kirkham says since Parkland, school security is constantly on their minds and they applaud students for getting active.
“I think it is amazing. It makes me think of Whitney Houston — the children are our future. This whole movement, I think it is incredible,” said Kirkham.
Senior Ben Shore organized the student walkout. He says students are concerned about what they see as a lack of security.
“Anyone can walk in. Anyone can walk out. We don’t have metal detectors. We don’t have armed police. We have law enforcement at our schools that can’t defend themselves against a gun. A baton versus a gun, what are you going to do?” said Ben.
Ben’s mother, Kelly Shore, says students have their hearts in the right place trying to help their teacher.
“I am very proud of my son, Ben, and all the other kids,” she said. “There was a great turnout and I’m behind them 125 million percent.”
Principal Dennis Perry held an assembly with students Tuesday. In a letter, he said he expressed his concern for the students’ safety during a walkout.
“Ultimately, students chose to move to the front of the building, with a group congregating by the flagpole. Student leaders asked me to speak to the crowd. I was very proud of the students and the way in which they maintained their composure. The outside meeting moved into the auditorium where several students expressed their concerns for school safety. Many good ideas were shared and students were encouraged to continue their spirit of involvement,” said Perry.
Cherry Hill Schools Superintendent Joseph Meloche issued a statement that did not address Locke’s situation but mentioned how the high school responded to protests on Monday and Tuesday.
“Assemblies were held following each event to provide students with a safe forum in which to voice their concerns to the administration,” said Meloche.
On Tuesday night, hundreds of students and parents came to the Cherry Hill Board of Education meeting to listen, and voice concerns about student and employee safety.