One month after the Feb. 14 mass shooting that left 17 staff and students dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, students across the country are planning a youth-led school walkout to protest gun violence and demand action from lawmakers. (March 13)
Students across the country are planning mass walkouts Wednesday to mark one month since the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and to demand an end to gun violence.
The students will walk out of classrooms at 10 a.m. across time zones for 17 minutes to show solidarity for the 17 killed in the Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to make a nationwide appeal for changes in gun legislation.
Students at more than 2,800 schools and colleges have signed up to participate, according to Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, which is helping students coordinate the events.
Organizers are urging students at all schools, from elementary schools to universities, to take part. Even parents, teachers and others are encouraged to walk out of their jobs at 10 a.m.
School walkouts are planned throughout the U.S. and as far as Australia, the United Kingdom and Germany. Students in the Washington, D.C., area are scheduled to march from the White House to the U.S. Capitol, where Democratic lawmakers will walk out and join them.
Wednesday’s walkouts will mark the first in a series of events in March and April organized by students across the nation as part of the #NeverAgain movement. Another walkout is scheduled on April 20 to mark the 19th year since the Columbine High School massacre.
A massive rally dubbed March For Our Lives is planned March 24 in Washington. The event is expected to attract 500,000 people and has spurred sister marches in every state.
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On Wednesday, students at each school are expected to demonstrate in different ways: Some are planning to leave their schools and march, while others will hold a short memorial service, hold hands or use the time to register to vote.
Students at some schools like University High School in Tucson, Ariz., will recite the names of the students and school administrators who died in Parkland and make plans to flood local lawmakers with calls about addressing gun violence.
“My peers and I feel there is no time more critical than this to make clear that we have had enough of gun violence,” said Deja Foxx, a senior at the high school. “For far too long, it has made us feel unsafe in our communities and in our classrooms.”
While many schools have been accommodating to the planned demonstrations — some even cheering on students — other districts are warning students that they will face disciplinary actions if they disrupt classes with the protest.
Students in parts of New Jersey and southeast Texas were warned last month that if they participate in the walkout, they would face a three-day suspension.
Curtis Rhodes, superintendent for Needville Independent School District, about 40 miles southwest of Houston, said disruptions wouldn’t be tolerated because “a school is a place to learn” and vowed to suspend all students participating.
“Life is all about choices, and every choice has a consequence whether it be positive or negative,” he said. “We will discipline no matter if it is one, 50 or 500 students involved.”
Some districts, including one in South Carolina, are barring the news media from going to schools during the protests in hopes it will discourage students from walking out, which the district says could be unsafe. The Greenville school district says a student protest for gun-control measures is a divisive issue and students should instead “focus on kindness.”
“The intended purpose of this national movement is to support gun-control legislation, a highly sensitive political topic,” district spokeswoman Beth Brotherton said. “Instead of polarizing students, we have asked them to unify and focus on kindness, remembrance and building a safer school climate.”
Many schools are asking students who plan to protest to stay inside for safety reasons. One principal in northern Ohio even offered students free orange T-shirts, the color associated with gun-control efforts, if they agreed to stay inside.
Mansfield Senior High School Principal Scott Musser said he hopes the shirts, with the message “Hear Something? See Something? SAY SOMETHING!,” will unify the school and start a conversation.
“I believe we are a stronger community together by remaining inside, sharing ideas and speaking out against violence,” Musser said. “If we stand together, there won’t be any need to walk out.”
Follow Christal Hayes on Twitter: Journo_Christal.
Contributing: Ricardo Cano, The Arizona Republic; Paul Hyde, Greenville News; William Cummings, USA TODAY; Lou Whitmire, The Mansfield News Journal.
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