Students to walk out over gun issues, school safety

Walkouts are planned Friday at schools around the country, including at least nine in Snohomish County.

EVERETT — Local students again are rallying as part of a national movement focused on school safety and gun violence.

Walkouts are planned Friday at schools around the country, including at least nine in Snohomish County.

Over the past couple of months, thousands of area students have taken part in rallies and marches, including the March 14 walkouts and the March for Our Lives. Some went to Washington, D.C.

The student activism began after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, where 17 people were killed.

Friday’s walkouts are meant to coincide with the 19-year mark since the shooting at Columbine High School, where 13 died.

Students at Henry M. Jackson High School plan to walk out around 10 a.m. They’ll march to Mill Creek City Hall, junior Xzavier Hamilton said. They’ll pick up garbage on their way.

Hamilton, 17, also was involved in the March 14 walkout, when students from Jackson High released a balloon each minute for 17 minutes, one for every victim of the shooting in Florida.

This time, they have chalk to write the names of every victim of a school shooting from Columbine to present on the pavement near City Hall, he said.

“What we’re trying to say is we don’t want gun violence in school,” he said. “We’re putting the message out there that we are tired of this and we want to feel safe.”

He hopes students are inspired to vote when they are old enough, and to speak out on issues they care about.

Students may be marked tardy or absent, depending on how long they are out of class, Everett schools spokeswoman Leanna Albrecht said. Leaving district property without parental permission is an unexcused absence.

“The safety of all students (both those participating in a walkout and those who choose not to) is our top priority,” she wrote in an email.

Student Rel Konot is organizing an event at Edmonds Community College. The plan is to have speakers and possibly voter registration in a courtyard on campus.

Konot supports raising the age to buy certain firearms from 18 to 21 and tightening background check requirements.

“A shooting in our community was narrowly averted,” Konot said, speaking of a student’s alleged plan to shoot classmates at ACES High School. “That’s really what made me think it is important to talk about this here, too.”

Jocelyn van der Put is part of a committee planning a walkout at Lake Stevens High School.

They’ll walk to the football field at the start of third period, she said. She expects they’ll return to class after about 20 minutes, during which students will speak and hold a school supply donation drive.

The walkout is in solidarity with others across the country, she said. However, the focus in Lake Stevens isn’t gun control, but rather safety in general and bridging divides between students.

“We want it to be unifying for our student body,” she said. “There is a big political divide on this issue. We don’t want that to be the case, at least at our school.”

Some students are frustrated that the discussion won’t center on gun control, she said. The goal is to bring together all students who care about school safety, including those who do not support stricter gun laws.

In Marysville, where a freshman in 2014 fatally shot four classmates, wounded one other and killed himself, students may participate in activities led by their peers but are not to leave campus, according to a message from acting superintendent Jason Thompson.

“School districts locally and across the nation have made decisions weighing students’ First Amendment rights to free speech with staying in class,” he wrote.

He expressed pride in the way young people have chosen to honor those lost in shootings.

“Students feeling passion and advocacy about an issue can be a powerful learning experience,” he wrote.

An online map shows where students have said they are planning events affiliated with the National Student Walkout. The map includes Cascade, Jackson, Mariner, North Creek and Lakewood high schools, Explorer Middle School, Cedar Way Elementary, and Edmonds Community College.

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

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