Area students plan walkouts to protest mass shootings

Students Against Gun Violence held a demonstration on March 3 on the western lawn of the Capitol building. The student-led group protested gun violence within the country. (photo courtesy Serena Baldick)

Students across the District are organizing protests and walkouts to advocate stricter gun regulations in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Women’s March organizers are coordinating a nationwide school walkout on March 14, which marks one month since the Parkland shooting. Students throughout D.C. are planning to participate, including at Wilson High School, Emerson Preparatory School and Sidwell Friends School. Students are also participating in various other marches and protests in the coming months.

“We really want to call attention to the gun violence epidemic that takes place in our schools, in our neighborhoods, across our country,” Claire Shaw, one of the student organizers at Wilson, said. “We really want to organize this to demand Congress pass some legislation to keep us safe.”

At Wilson, students plan to walk out of class at 9:55 a.m. and gather to sit silently for 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 people who died in the Parkland shooting. Shaw estimated that a few hundred students are likely to participate, although she said her estimate could be off.

Student organizers contacted school administrators to tell them about the walkout before they began publicizing it. However, they received no response, Shaw said. In 2016, Wilson students walked out to protest the election of President Donald Trump.

“Classes that we missed were unexcused and our principal sent out an email acknowledging the walkout and reiterating that they would be unexcused absences,” Shaw said. “But nothing more than unexcused absences. I’ve seen that a lot of schools across the country are threatening suspension and we’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Shaw emphasized the walkout is entirely student-run. She said she would be thrilled if school staff participated, but understands that they are in a difficult position because of their jobs.

Students at Emerson are also planning to walk out on March 14 to protest the lack of government action on gun control, Emerson student Isabel Farjado said.

“What impresses me most is that although our voices as young people aren’t always valued, we still make ourselves heard,” Farjado said.

Students at Sidwell are planning to walk out on both March 14 and April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. A group of students also held a protest on March 3 in front of the Capitol to stand in solidarity with those affected by gun violence, and to advocate increased gun control.

Organizer and Sidwell student Serena Baldick said a student group she is part of at Sidwell originally began planning the protest after the shooting in Las Vegas, but the idea morphed when the Parkland shooting happened. Baldick estimated that 50-60 students and adults took part in the event, including 17 people who each held a sign with the name of a Parkland victim.

One of their goals was not just to raise awareness among those who saw the protest, but also to help educate those taking part in the event, Baldick said. Attendees heard from student speakers about issues including the unique ways in which gun violence affects people of color.

“There are lots of misconceptions that occur with education around gun violence. And all the people that came to the event were super invested and super interested,” Baldick said. “And those are the people that are going to be speaking out when they hear things in the hallways, or that will be able to understand what’s happening and be able to defend it with concrete evidence.”

Students at all three schools are also planning to take part in the March for Our Lives on March 24. The event is being organized by students who survived the Parkland shooting.

“We have valid ideas and we want to make change, and we’re here for the change, and we’re serious about this,” Farjado said.