As elsewhere, high school students here plan to walk out

Many districts are supportive of Wednesday’s planned protest over the Florida school shooting.

EVERETT — Students around Snohomish County are joining a national movement to remember those lost in the shooting at a Florida high school last month, and to urge lawmakers to take action on gun laws, mental health and school safety.

Most local walkouts, in keeping with the national theme, are set for 10 a.m. on Wednesday and will last for 17 minutes. That’s one minute for every victim killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Some teens are planning to march, others to give speeches. In Snohomish, high school students plan to take a group photo with everyone wearing red and gray, the colors of Stoneman Douglas High. In Granite Falls, participants are asked to wear orange, a bright color that “will signal that our voices need to be heard,” according to an email about the event.

At Stanwood High School, students are invited to write messages of support on a banner and be in a photo after school on Tuesday. The photo and banner will be sent to students in Parkland.

Many local school districts sent information to families regarding possible walkouts. While most noted that the events are student-led and not sponsored by the districts, several administrators expressed support for the teens.

“We are proud of the student representatives from schools who are collaborating and taking action for something they believe in,” wrote Jason Thompson, acting superintendent in Marysville.

Attendance will be taken, but students are excused for on-campus activities related to the walkout.

In Marysville schools, the topic of shootings is particularly hard, district spokeswoman Emily Wicks said in an email. This year’s seniors were freshmen when, in October 2014, five of their classmates at Marysville Pilchuck High School were shot, four fatally. The shooter, also a freshman, then turned the gun on himself.

“We stand beside our students in their advocacy and share our sadness for the loss of life in these senseless acts of violence,” Wicks said in a written statement.

Marysville Pilchuck Principal Dave Rose reminded families in a letter that the focus on school shootings can bring back traumatic memories. At least one reporter from an international news outlet had attempted to contact students via Twitter. Rose urged families to “be vigilant with students and social media.” Based on requests from families, the district also has asked that news media not go to Marysville Pilchuck on Wednesday.

Not all districts are excusing absences for walkouts. Administrators in Arlington and Monroe, for example, reminded families that students will receive an unexcused absence unless a parent contacts the school to give permission for the student to leave class. In Lake Stevens, students will be marked absent if they miss a full class. In Snohomish, events are happening during a period when students can seek help from instructors, and should not disrupt other classes.

Conversations about school safety, gun regulations and mental health are happening nationwide, Monroe superintendent Fredrika Smith wrote in a letter to families.

“We are proud of our students who are making their views known on all sides of this issue and are speaking up about their ideas,” she wrote. “Learning to channel their passions through peaceful advocacy can be a powerful growth experience for our students.”

The walkouts have continued to take shape over the last few weeks as teens shared ideas. Not every gathering has the same focus. Some are geared toward connecting with other students and creating a welcoming school environment, while others are meant to protest gun violence and demand safer schools.

In a news release from students planning a walkout at Mariner High School, the reason given was “to protest the lack of student and staff safety, and the lack of gun safety in our community.”

The Edmonds School District sent a note to families earlier this month, explaining that school will operate as usual but staff will be present to monitor walkouts.

“One of the most important lessons we can teach our students is what it means to be meaningfully engaged citizens,” the letter said. “Allowing students to be passionate about our country and democracy is a powerful learning experience.”

More marches or walkouts may take place on April 20. It will be 19 years since the shooting at Columbine High School, when two teenagers killed 13 people before killing themselves.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com

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