National School Walkout: Students rallying in solidarity to end gun violence

Students across the country and around the globe are coming together in a National School Walkout today in a call on Congress to pass tighter gun control laws.

The ENOUGH National School Walkout is taking place exactly one month after the mass shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people and sent shock waves across the nation.

Over 3,100 walkout events are registered, according to event organizers. The walkouts are across the nation, from Maine to Maryland, from North Dakota to North Carolina, from the White House to Washington state, and even in Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Groups from around the world have also signed up, including in Australia, Israel, Switzerland, Germany and Mexico.

The event began at 10 a.m. across every time zone and last 17 minutes — one minute for each of the victims gunned down in the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"Remember why we are walking out," Stoneman Douglas survivor Lauren Hogg wrote on Twitter today. "We are walking out for my friends that passed, all children that have been taken because of gun violence. We are walking out for the empty desks in my classes, and the unsaid goodbyes. This epidemic of School shootings must stop."

Women’s March Youth Coordinator Tabitha St. Bernard Jacobs, one of the few adult allies guiding the students in the youth-led movement, told ABC News ahead of the event that while the walkout was sparked by the Florida school shooting, the event is about pressuring Congress to act against gun violence overall.

She said the walkout a way to shed light on the type of gun violence that exists not just in schools, but everyday gun violence, like shootings that impact minority communities or devastate cities like Chicago. One student this morning held a sign that read, "Thoughts and prayers don't stop bullets."

How participants spend those 17 minutes of the walkout is up to them and what is best for their own environment, St. Bernard Jacobs said. Some people are doing a lie-in, while others are holding rallies, she said.

At Columbine High School in Colorado, where two students opened fire in April 1999, killing 12 of their fellow students and a teacher, student leaders said they plan to walk out at 10 a.m.

The students said they'll stay on school grounds and listening to student speakers at the Columbine shooting memorial on campus, according to the district. After 17 minutes, they'll return to class; students who choose not to participate will remain in class during the walkout, according to the district.

Students abroad are also eager to take part.

Izzy Harris, a student at The American School in London, said students at her school, including herself, wanted to walk out "to demonstrate that the U.S. government needs to make changes to their gun laws."

"Although we are not directly affected in the U.K., a number of us are American and have many connections to the U.S.," she told ABC News via video.

While many school districts are supportive of the protests, some schools from Pennsylvania to Georgia have reportedly threatened to discipline students participating in walkouts.

In Plainfield, Illinois, where some students plan to walk out, doing so will come with a guideline.

Students who want to participate in the walkout also must attend an after-school discussion with state legislators to discuss issues that relate to school violence, like the political process, school safety, gun control and what influences politicians, Plainfield School District Superintendent Dr. Lane Abrell told ABC News.

A student who walks out but does not attend the discussion with state legislators will get a 1-hour detention, Abrell said.

Abrell said the walkout "in my opinion … doesn't really solve the issue," and the meeting with local legislators is a way for students who genuinely are passionate about the cause to learn how school violence issues can be solved.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said schools can punish students for missing class for walkouts, but the punishment should only be because students are missing school — it cannot be a harsher punishment because the students participated in a protest.

Dozens of colleges and universities have said they won't penalize applicants who are peaceful student protesters.

ABC News' Connor Burton, Rachel Katz, Doug Lantz, Andy Fies and Samantha Reilly contributed to this report.

Original Article

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