It’s National Walkout Day and students nationwide, as planned, stood up in their classrooms and walked out of their schools for 17 minutes beginning at 10 a.m. in their respective local time zones in order to pressure Congress to approve gun control legislation after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17. Students also sat silently with backs to White House for 17 minutes on #NationalWalkoutDay.
Although some school districts openly accommodated the protests, others – primarily in red states- warned that they will discipline students who participate by marking them as absent or even suspending them.
“We cannot condone students leaving classes during the instructional day to participate in this activity,” said Barbara P. Canavan, the schools superintendent in Harford County, Md., who said that the protest “presents, paradoxically, a threat to student safety, as word of the walkout has been widely disseminated and students who go outside could become more vulnerable.”
Instead, Ms. Canavan said, her district would offer “a learning module that will provide students with an opportunity to share their feelings about recent events across the nation and will allow them to speak about solutions in a structured way.”
In Muscogee County, Ga., administrators arranged a video conference between students and state lawmakers but warned of “immediate disciplinary action” against students who participated in “unapproved exercises,” such as a walkout.
Officials in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana, initially said that students could participate in the walkout, believing that it would honor the Florida victims, but later the school board said it had adopted a new plan: a minute of silence.
President Trump on Monday abandoned his pledge to seek national-level reforms that the National Rifle Association, NRA, opposed.
Notably the school districts across the country that are opposed to the walkouts and have expressed plans to discipline students who participate are in Republican party and NRA strongholds.
In support of National Walkout Day, media giant Viacom said that its networks, including MTV, BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, will “suspend regularly scheduled programming for 17 minutes” when 10 a.m. occurs in each time zone and that students will take over MTV’s social media accounts during the protests.
The protests come 10 days before major “March for Our Lives” protests on Saturday, March 24, in Washington and elsewhere. On March 24, students are expected to amass in Washington and other cities for the March for Our Lives coordinated by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group backed by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor.
More walkouts are planned on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999.
Some of the day’s most poignant demonstrations could happen at schools whose names are synonymous with shootings.
In Colorado, students at Columbine High School will leave their classrooms and begin 30 seconds of silence: 17 for the dead in Parkland and 13 for the dead on their own campus in the shooting that seemed to signify the beginning of a generation of school attacks.
Walkouts are also expected in Newtown, Conn., where 26 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. The district’s interim superintendent, Lorrie Rodrigue, said this month that school officials had “worked closely with student leaders to create a time for respectful student expression,” according to school board minutes. Dr. Rodrigue said she viewed the protests as an extension of social studies classes.
And in Parkland, students at Stoneman Douglas High are expected to hold their own walkout at 10 a.m. A few hours later, the suspect in the rampage there, Nikolas Cruz, is expected to appear in court. Prosecutors have reportedly said they will seek the death penalty.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered training to students planning to participate in the walkouts, said that districts can discipline students under attendance guidelines, but cannot “discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action.” Many colleges, meanwhile, have said that high school students disciplined for protesting will not have it counted against them when they apply for admission.
There are also walk outs in schools outside the USA. At least one school in Africa has already walked out. Students at International School of Tanganyika, a secondary school for grades 6 through 12 in Tanzania, walked out at 10 a.m. local time.
Viacom’s MTV, Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central have all just suspended programming for 17 minutes in support of the national student walkout over gun violence.
Andrew Cuomo Verified account @NYGovCuomo: America’s students can clearly see what the GOP cannot: weak gun laws are at the heart of America’s gun violence problem. Proud to join the students at Leadership and Public Service High School for #NationalWalkoutDay.
Chuck Schumer Verified account @SenSchumer: #Enough is enough. It’s time that this country comes together to do something about gun violence. #NationalWalkoutDay, the students, teachers, families & friends standing up all give me hope that things will finally, finally change.
Ed Markey Verified account @SenMarkey: To all of the students participating in today’s #NationalSchoolWalkout to protest gun violence in our schools – I hear you, I stand with you, and I pledge to fight for you in your students’ crusade.
Tom Udall Verified account @SenatorTomUdall: I stand with the students across #NM and America who are raising their voices and calling on Congress to take meaningful action to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. #NationalWalkoutDay
Sen Dianne Feinstein Verified account @SenFeinstein: On #NationalWalkOutDay, lawmakers should listen to students who are demanding stronger gun safety laws. These students know the horror of mass shootings and they deserve to be heard.
Jaclyn Corin Verified account @JaclynCorin: You have to stand up for some things in this world. – Marjory Stoneman Douglas #MarchForOurLives
Michael Skolnik Verified account @MichaelSkolnik: There are three national actions to end gun violence in America. March 14: #NationalWalkoutDay March 24: #MarchForOurLives April 20: #NationalSchoolWalkout Let’s support them all.
Senator Patty Murray Verified account @PattyMurray: This is a critical time in the fight to address the scourge of gun violence, and I’m so proud of all the students nationwide who refuse to let their elected leaders ignore the violence that has been claiming innocent lives and shattering communities. #NationalWalkoutDay
Susan Sarandon Verified account @SusanSarandon: To all the students walking out today to honor of 17 killed in Parkland & demanding action against gun violence: We will follow your lead and protest with our voices, our bodies and our votes. This is just the beginning. See you in Washington on the 24th. #NationalWalkoutDay
Senator Jeff Merkley Verified account @SenJeffMerkley: I’m inspired today by the thousands of students in Oregon and across the nation who are walking out to build a better, safer future. We need to heed their calls and take action to stop the epidemic of gun violence in our nation. #NeverAgain #NationalWalkoutDay
Michelle Branch Verified account @michellebranch: So much love, admiration and gratitude to all of the students standing up against gun violence by participating in the National School Walkout today. You’re an inspiration. #GunControlNow #FuckTheNRA #NationalSchoolWalkout
Alexander William Verified account @AlexAllTimeLow: Was about to tweet something in regards to this, but Michelle nailed it for me. So here’s a signal boost. Love to all of you! Well done. ❤ #NationalWalkoutDay alex gaskarth
George Takei Verified account @GeorgeTakei: Seeing these kids around the country walk out of their schools and make their voices heard for #NationalWalkoutDay gives me hope for the future. Know that we stand with you and we walk with you. #NeverAgain.
Rep. Keith Ellison Verified account @keithellison: It’s only March and nearly 3,000 people have already died from gun violence this year. Gun profiteers and their allies in Congress continue to block any attempt to address this situation, so our young people are acting. #NationalWalkoutDay
Tim Kaine Verified account @timkaine: The spirit of #NationalWalkoutDay is familiar: 55 years ago, thousands of children skipped school to protest segregation in the streets of Birmingham—a moment that forever changed the Civil Rights Movement. Let us remember which side was consigned to the dustbin of history.