This Friday, April 20, marks the 19th anniversary of the mass shooting at Columbine High School, considered the deadliest high school shooting in American history until 17 people were killed in Parkland, Florida this past February, giving the demonstration a new meaning this year for some participants.
What will happen?
To keep national attention on stopping school violence, students across the country are planning to leave class. The concept was developed by Lane Murdock, a 16-year-old girl who grew up near Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 students were killed in a mass shooting in 2012. According to Time, Murdock issued the following statements about what inspired her to develop the event:
“I was 15 when I started this; I’m a newly-turned 16-year-old.” “I guess there’s no way to control this, but just for people to know that whether it’s the Parkland students or myself and my team, we’re growing up while doing this.”
The movement was also helped by a Change.org petition following the Valentines Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School; over 250,000 people have signed the petition, with over 2,000 protests registered.
This is the second major school walkout to occur in two months. On March 14, students walked out of class for the #Enough! National School Walkout. The March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. also took place on March 24.
When will the walkout happen?
The walkout takes place on Friday, April 20, 2018, at 10 A.M. across the participants’ various local times. Unlike the March 14 protest, in which participants stayed outside for 17 minutes, each in honor of the 17 victims, students are expected to spend the whole day involved with the walkout. A “Walkout Planning Guide” at the National School Walkout website gives some ideas for how students involved with the protest can spend their day, like voter registration drives or letter writing campaigns, but the open-ended nature of the protest, according to Murdock is meant to reflect the fact that the walkout is meant to focus on kids.
What can happen to students involved?
Now, schools can punish students involved with the walkout. According to the ACLU, schools have the right to discipline students by law, which demands attendance in school, but cannot let the political nature of the event impact their decisions further; that said, students do have freedom of speech:
“Because the law in most places requires students to go to school, schools can discipline you for missing class. But what they can’t do is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.”
“You have the right to speak out, hand out flyers and petitions, and wear expressive clothing in school — as long as you don’t disrupt the functioning of the school or violate the school’s content-neutral policies.”
In a statement with ABC, one of Murdock’s co-organizers, Grant Yuan, a 17-year-old junior, said that many schools have shown acceptance to the walkout.
“Resistance does exist. Thankfully, it seems at least the majority, however slim the majority may be, of schools are at least friendly to the event or have accepted it’s going to happen whether they sanction it or not, and have made moves to accommodate.”
In addition, after the walkout, students can participate in local chapters that have been developed by the National School Walkout; at this time, there are believed to be at least 150 registered chapters so far.