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ONLY ON 3: Lowcountry student now facing criminal charges for Sharpie protest

The Bluffton High School girl who made her feelings known about guns in schools on the walls of her school, is now facing criminal charges.

As News 3 first told you Tuesday, Amy Hughey wrote "you cannot silence us" on the walls of all 12 bathrooms at Bluffton high.

She admitted to the political statement, which she hoped would "wake up" students and get them more active in the school safety debate.

Ami was suspended by the school for 3 days for the act.

But it also drew the attention of the school resource officer, who is also a Bluffton Police officer. Bluffton Police have now charged Amy with "malicious injury to property". A similar charge to vandalism.

"Its up to the school to see if school rules have been violated," explain Jim Foster, Beaufort County School Spokesperson. "If they have, we have a student code of conduct and possible disciplinary actions. its up to law enforcement to decide if a law has been violated."

"You write something on the wall in 12 different bathrooms, doesn't matter what you are saying on them, that's vandalism," explains Joy Nelson of the Bluffton Police Department. "The student has to realize she can't go around writing on walls to get her poltical opinion across. That is against the law"

"Students have to be held accountable for their actions," said Nelson. "And i know this is a good student, this is a student that typically does not do anything wrong, gets good grades, has a good family, but regardless, she still vandalized property. and she needs to be held accountable for her actions."

The Hughey tell News 3 they have not seen any paperwork on charges, but Bluffton Police say that's normal, and it could take a few weeks before they get the paperwork.

Ami and her parents now have to go to family court where a judge will decide what, if any charges she may face.

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She wanted to make a statement about the Parkland shooting, about gun control, and about safety in her school.

Now a Lowcountry student is sitting at home suspended from school, but not sorry about what she did or her "weapon of choice" -- a Sharpie.

"I knew it had to be something that wasn't allowed that had to erupt a little bit," explained Ami Hughey.

Ami Hughey wanted to make her statement about the Parkland shooting and upcoming protests with a little bit of writing on the bathroom walls of Bluffton High. Sending a message to everyone in and out of class.

"I didn't think about it very much while I was doing it, the words just kind of came to me as I was writing - it was the same on all 12 bathrooms," said Hughey. "We will not be silenced."

This 15-year-old says she couldn't sit back and watch the national protests without making a statement herself.

"It's scary. I'm terrified every single day to enter my school until I leave. It's sad I feel that way in my place of education, I shouldn't have to," said Hughey.

She went to every bathroom in the school to write her message on the wall.

"I covered three floors," said Hughey. "I covered 4 bathrooms on three floors of my school and walked in with a Sharpie it happened without anyone taking notice. What if that was a gun?"

"I knew before I went to guidance that I was going to get in a lot of trouble and I told myself it was worth it," said Ami. "Because students are talking about it, now teachers are supporting and talking about it, now at least there is being conversation is being held about what we should be doing and what we would do if a shooter would enter our school and how easy it is."

Almost before the ink was dry, Ami was called into the office and the statement she was making for everyone to see was painted over a half hour later.

"I was surprised it was such a big issue, I was surprised it was a big issue they had to cover it in 30 minutes. It was about the same time it took to write it they took to cover it," wonders Ami.

Ami was called into the Guidance office and eventually suspended for three days for vandalism -- a punishment which started Tuesday.

The suspension could have been longer, but Hughey's record as an excellent student was taken into account. Hughey says whatever the punishment was, she was ready for it, for the cause.

But the message was heard loud and clear in the halls of the high school and throughout the Lowcountry.

"It shouldn't have had to come to a child vandalizing to get it out but I do think its finally being talked about in my school," said Ami. "Children are the ones that have to bring the change because adults won't."

Ami says she's gotten support from some teachers, some students, and calls from other students in Beaufort County asking how they can get involved. She hopes this doesn't end just with words of support.

"I want it to spur on more action from students," said Ami. "I want more students to feel like they are able to step up and do something about security in our schools, I want it to bring change, I want it to bring more than it has, and I hope it will."

A spokesperson for Beaufort County schools tells News 3 the school system respects students' right to free speech, but that doesn't include defacing public property.

Schools also remind everyone it cost the school system time and money to clean up and repaint the walls as well.

Beaufort County Schools have said it does not want students walking out of class during the planned nationwide walkout March 14th. The school system is looking at other options for students to express themselves in a safe way.

One of those would be allowing students to write post it notes with their feelings and post them in the Bluffton High atrium. Another -- a silent protest in the classroom.

"They want us to stand or sit for 17 minutes as a replacement," said Hughey. "This is no time for silence, that is a non-adequate substitution for a walkout that's supposed to show the nation we are not going to be silent until something is done to prevent school shootings."

Amy has already gotten a new venue to express her feelings, at a sister rally to the Washington DC rally, "March for our Lives". She will be a key speaker at the Bluffton version, March 24.


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