Students at schools across the Puget Sound region are planning to walk out Wednesday as part of a nationwide protest to mark the one-month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead.
A group called Women’s March Youth Empower is helping students organize walkouts. The group estimates about 200,000 students across the country will participate.
The walkouts will start at 10 a.m. and will last 17 minutes – one minute for each of the people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day when a former student opened fire with his assault rifle at the school.
Avé Rose Trebilcock is a senior at Puyallup High School where she is helping organize a walkout. She said she’s hoping about 200 students will take part.
“I definitely think that there will be change now because of everything that’s been going on,” Trebilcock said. “In Florida recently they just passed a new gun control law and it’s because of the kids who have been standing up for themselves.”
At Holy Names Academy in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, sophomore Jamie Margolin said she sent a group text to many of her friends saying they should participate in the walkout after finding out about it on social media.
Margolin is already an activist who’s helping organize a march in Washington, D.C., this July to demand that policy makers respond more urgently to climate change. But she said the issue of gun control is something she also cares about. She says she wants to stand in solidarity with the students from Parkland in taking on the National Rifle Association.
“I go to a school and worry about things like failing tests or did I do my homework and stuff and that should be all I worry about,” she said. “I’m sure every school that’s had a shooting at one point thought, `Oh, it happens to them, but not to me.’ So it could happen to anyone and it’s just really ridiculous how, just like the fossil fuel industry, the NRA really just has its hands in control of our politics and students are fed up with that kind of corruption.”
School districts are taking steps to prepare for the walkouts. Highline Public Schools in South King County put out a statement telling students they have a right to free speech in and outside of school.
“We’re pleased to see students exercising their right. We want this to be a teachable moment,” said Catherine Carbone Rogers, a spokeswoman for the district. “We want them to have this opportunity to learn about civic engagement and how to advocate for an issue that’s important to them. That is a useful learning experience.”
In the statement, Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield told students she’s encouraged to see young people taking action to end school violence, but she also said teachers and staff have to remain neutral and shouldn’t impose their own political views on students.