Students across Minnesota are planning to walk out of school Wednesday morning, as lawmakers continue to wrangle over gun measures.
The nationwide walkout led by students demanding stricter gun laws is spearheaded by the Women’s March Youth Empower, a branch of the Women’s March group. The movement has called on students and school staff to vacate schools at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — each minute to honor the 17 people killed recently in a Florida school shooting.
Wednesday’s #ENOUGH National School Walkout, which marks the one-month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, has resonated with a growing number of Minnesota schools that have vowed to join the campaign against gun violence.
Meanwhile, school districts have issued statements to parents and school administrators outlining their policies, which include not endorsing the protests while respecting students’ free speech rights. However, disciplinary action will be taken if students’ constitutional rights violate school district policies, officials say.
Legal experts have voiced strong support for protesters, urging school districts to use that time to teach students real-life lessons.
Several school districts, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, say they will not stop walkout participation but they will count the protest departures from school premises as an unexcused absence for students. Students at Minneapolis Public Schools have been told that they will be banned from Wednesday’s after-school activities if they leave school grounds.
In Bemidji, students are forbidden by school officials from participating in any sort of walkouts. Instead, the student council has organized 17 positive things students can do during the school day to mark the event. Some teachers and students are defying the order and have pledged to walk out before school starts or at 10 a.m. to show solidarity.
Community schools such as Lake Harriet Upper School in Minneapolis are planning to silently walk around the school building. Parents have been invited to help with the walkout.
Schools from the west metro area also are planning a coordinated walkout. Stella Olson and Ishani Roychowdhury, who are juniors at Wayzata High School, founded an activist group after attending the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., two years ago. The group helped create the West Metro Walkout, which has attracted more than a dozen suburban high schools, including Orono, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Apple Valley and Edina.
Organizers of the West Metro Walkout have urged protesters to wear all black and congregate at their schools’ bus lots at 10 a.m. There, they will observe a moment of silence, listen to personal stories of gun violence and jot down on a poster their reasons for walking out.
Students will then be presented with “I walked out” labels modeled after “I voted” stickers before heading back to class.
“Our main reason is to bring awareness to this issue. Every time there’s a shooting people get worked up on social media for a day or two and then it fades away.” Olson said. “With this walkout we’re making our voices heard and we’re making a big noise to those who represent us.”
Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203