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National Student Walkout Wednesday: What You Need To Know

by Countable | 3.13.18

What’s the story?

On Wednesday, the one month anniversary of the school shooting in Parkland, FL, a National School Walkout is scheduled. According to the youth initiators of the walkout, EMPOWER, there are at least 2,500 walkouts scheduled around the globe, and more than 185,000 students of all ages will be participating.

What is the walkout trying to accomplish?

The initiators of the Walkout have a list of legislative demands:

  • Banning Assault Weapons & High Capacity Magazines / S. 2095

  • Expanding Background Checks to All Gun Sales / S 2009

  • Passing Gun Violence Restraining Order Law / H.R. 2598 / S. 1212

  • Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act / S.1856 / H.R. 1556

These policy demands, they say, are in pursuit of ending all gun violence, not just school shootings:

We demand that Congress enact an immediate resolution declaring gun violence a public health crisis and dedicating federal funding to research solutions and implement violence intervention programs. We demand Congress recognize all forms of gun violence, including violence committed by police.

Not all walkout events are focused on EMPOWER’s demands. Each school is creating a structure and focus to their actions that fits their school community.

What will different schools be doing?

The original idea was for students and teachers to walkout of class at 10 AM in each time zone for 17 minutes, in honor of the 17 students that died at Parkland, and then return to class. But, students in different schools are planning different events based on their age and community ethos.

  • Some elementary students will engage in discussions about school safety.

  • Some elementary students will walkout, and gather on school property together.

  • Some districts are discouraging elementary participation, but allowing middle and high schoolers to walkout.

  • Some will hold discussions on the Second Amendment.

  • Some will share poems and other writings about their experience of gun violence.

  • Some will release balloons for each Parkland victim and have a moment of silence.

  • Some will walkout, leave school property, and march in their communities.

  • All are encouraged to tweet out updates at hashtag #Enough.

Do students have a right to protest?

The Supreme Court has ruled that students have First Amendment rights, though schools have the right to discipline students for an unexcused absence if they walkout of class. They can’t, however, provide stricter discipline for a political walkout than for any other unexcused absence.

Students who engage in excessive disruption can be disciplined. EMPOWER is calling for all actions to be non-violent.

Students who do not wish to participate for any reason cannot be penalized for lack of participation.

Adults outside the school community are being discouraged from attending the walkouts for safety reasons, but are being encouraged to wear orange in solidarity.

More student actions are planned for April 20 and March 24, organized by other groups.

What do you think?

Do you support the student walkout? Are there actions you support and others you don’t? Are you walking out? If so, what do you plan to do when you walk out?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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