Thousands of high school and college students across the country plan to walk out of their classrooms Wednesday morning to honor the victims of February’s school shooting in Florida, as a way to ask lawmakers to pass stricter gun control laws.
The nationwide demonstrations, organized by The Women’s March Youth Empower group, are scheduled to last for 17 minutes, one minute for each of the students and faculty members killed a month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The walkout is planned to begin at 10 a.m.
As individuals rally together in an effort of activism, students at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Santa Clarita Valley International (SCVi) charter school and at all six comprehensive high schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District are organizing walkouts and demonstrations of their own to demand safe school campuses.
“At the high schools, ASBs and Safe School Ambassador groups are planning activities during brunch or other non-instructional minutes,” said Deborah Dunn, executive assistant to Hart district Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht. “Because it’s being planned at each site, it will look at different at each one. The idea is to commemorate the students who lost their lives and to discuss school safety measures.”
In the Hart district, the administration is calling the demonstrations at Canyon, Golden Valley, Hart, Saugus, Valencia and West Ranch High Schools “school safety forums” because they are all occurring on campus during each school’s brunch time.
“All the ASBs and communications councils have collaborated so it will be interesting to hear what their thoughts are,” Hart district Governing Board President Steven Sturgeon said.
To accommodate students’ participation in the event, some schools have altered their daily schedule by extending brunch time or adjusting class times.
Valencia High School has planned a “rally schedule” for Wednesday that includes about 30 minutes for an extended brunch, while both Hart High School and West Ranch High School have a “late start special schedule” for the day.
“We have put together a special schedule and activities that will allow students to have their voices heard in a safe structured environment without the loss of instructional time,” West Ranch Principal Mark Crawford wrote in his weekly update.
The students at West Ranch, as well as at all Hart district schools, are expected to remain on campus as they discuss school safety measures and hear from 2018 25th Congressional District candidates Bryan Caforio and Kate Hill.
The plan for Valencia High School is about the same, with students meeting on campus to hear from speakers about their concerns about school safety. At the end of the rally, the students plan to release 273 balloons into the air to honor all the victims of shootings after Columbine High School.
At all of the district’s schools, students are expected to share their concerns about the “bipartisan issue” and discuss their demands, which include an end to campaign funding from the NRA, the institution of a comprehensive assault weapon ban and universal background checks at any purchase of a firearm, according to a website organizing the demonstrations.
“We will send a message to our district representative Steve Knight as well as others so they understand this is not just a request, but a demand of the people,” the student website read. “We’re not fighting the teachers, schools or administrators. Rather we’re fighting for our lives by making sure they’re a priority to our politicians.”
At SCVi, students are planning to meet outside of the school’s theater in the parking lot before marching to the nearby street corner, at Commerce Center Drive and Industry Drive, in Castaic.
The students walkout of SCVi and hold up signs for 17 minutes before ordering pizza for those participating, according to the school’s SCVi Demands Action webpage.
“Please bring your own signs and wear as much orange as you can as it is the color of the movement,” the event organizers wrote online.
The participants also plan to urge Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence at schools, on streets, in homes and in places of worship.
At CalArts, President Ravi Rajan is encouraging the institute’s students, faculty and staff to participate in Wednesday’s walkout with him.
“As president of CalArts, and as a father, I am committed to this effort to end senseless gun violence. Keeping students safe while at school must become a top priority in this country, and I know that many in our community share this view,” Rajan said in a statement. “This walkout is just the start of a much larger effort if we are to effect real change, but I believe that change is coming.”
The campus plans to begin the walkout at 10 a.m. and continue it for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims from Parkland.
Additional student walkouts and demonstrations are scheduled to occur nationwide, and throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, for the remainder of the school year.
On March 24, students, teachers and families from the area are planning to participate in the Santa Clarita Valley March for Our Lives, organized by local teachers and students at Marketplace Park.
A month later on April 20, the 29th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting, students are expected to leave school as part of the National School Walkout for Anti-Gun Violence.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_