Washington High School students will be given the chance to participate in the National School Walkout Wednesday morning, March 14 — a protest spurred by the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
The peaceful protests are expected to take place in hundreds of locations and schools across the country.
The National School Walkout is scheduled for 10 a.m. and will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.
Principal Dr. Kelle McCallum said the WHS walkout, organized by students, will begin a few minutes early at 9:58 a.m. because that’s the normal time for the bell to ring to switch classes. It will end at 10:20 a.m. Students who want to participate will walk out to the gym.
McCallum said four students approached her and asked for permission to take part and plan an event here. While some of the protests planned nationally are calling for stricter gun legislation, the WHS walkout is focused on remembering the school shooting victims.
“They were very respectful in their request and stressed it would be a peaceful protest,” she said. “They came with a plan, which we discussed and made a few changes.”
The students also have created a Twitter account, as well as fliers, to promote it. The flier notes: “This event is not in protest of guns. This is purely for students to be able to express their grief and memorialize the lives lost to the tragedy.”
At WHS, the students can lie down or sit down peacefully. The student organizers will speak briefly on why they are participating in the national walkout and then will read the names of the 17 shooting victims and give a short bio on each. A moment of silence will be held after each victim’s name is read.
One of the student organizers, a junior, said the walkout is a way to support the students who are still grieving in Florida.
Another organizer said the protest is not about gun control, but remembering the lives lost and coming together as a school community to grieve.
McCallum said she feels the walkout can be a “teachable moment” and allows students to have their voices heard.
“The kids planning this event are very involved in school and in no way want this to be disruptive,” she said.
“In fact, they were insistent to us that we remove anyone who is being disrespectful,” she said. “They want this to be peaceful and are very sincere in their efforts for organizing the walkout.”
McCallum stressed that no one will be forced to participate. She said teachers, unless they have an open planning hour, will remain in the classrooms and classes will continue for those students who did not go to the gym.
School administrators, the school resource officer and additional police officers will all be present for the event.
Parents of students will be allowed to participate, but must check in at the front desk at school. The event, otherwise, is not open to the public.
After the walkout, McCallum and her administrative team will meet with the organizers and a few other students to talk about the event and listen to their thoughts on school security.
Washington High School has approximately 1,290 students.