Students plan walkouts to honor Parkland victims

- Exactly one month after the Parkland school shooting, students around the country will be taking part in the "ENOUGH: National School Walkout." It's set to happen Wednesday at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes.

The movement is to honor the 17 lives lost at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and to call for an end to gun violence.

Those walkouts are happening at schools throughout the Tampa Bay area. We spoke to a group of Seminole High School students who are helping to organize their walkout.

Polk County Schools encouraged principals to work with their student government associations to organize such demonstrations, saying, "our schools are focused on allowing students an opportunity to express themselves while also maintaining a safe learning environment."

"I felt like that shooting made me realize the odds aren't in our favor. It could happen to us," said junior Niki Gleeson.

"Stuff like this, it's almost like we are numb to it," said freshman Lauren McCue. "it doesn't shock us as much."

That realization led these students to get involved in their school's National School Walkout. They'll be among tens of thousands across the country, doing the same thing at the same time.

"The purpose of this walkout is to really just to pay our respects as a school, let Parkland know that we stand with them, we are grieving with them, we are supporting them," McCue said.

"We are going to have the band play taps," Gleeson said. "We are having a student speak all the names over the intercom so we can all hear them. We are going to be out there for 17 minutes for all the 17 that passed away."

Walkouts already took place at several local schools, one week after the Parkland shooting.

While some districts around the country warned that Wednesday's walkouts could result in disciplinary action, local districts have been largely supportive.

Pinellas County Schools "encouraged schools and teachers to make student activism an authentic learning opportunity," which "could include a classroom lesson or activity." Principals were guided to involve student leaders in the development of the plan, ensure that staff understands their role is to ensure the safety of all students who participate and those who do not, and to respect the right of students to participate or not.

Sarasota Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Bowden said, “We acknowledge that many of our students and district employees want to participate in this event to recognize and pay tribute to those who lost their lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I know our students will plan thoughtful events during the 17 minutes of observation on March 14 to remember the fallen, especially fellow students and those in the education field affected by this tragedy."

Each demonstration will be different. For example, students at Crews Lake Middle School in Spring Hill will wear orange to represent gun safety and collect donations for Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

In Charlotte County, its three high schools will be gathering in the school courtyards around 17 empty chairs. The names of the shooting victims will be read out loud.

Even Hillsborough County students, who are on spring break, are getting involved in the walkout. Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m., they'll gather at Ybor City's Centennial Park for their own march.

"We need a change," said Seminole High School freshman Makenzie Desimone.

Large painted banners will hang from the roof of Seminole High School.  "Some of them say, 'We stand with MSD,' or 'fear has no place'," Desimone said.

"We have one that says "enough is enough," said Gleeson.

It's a message they hope will extend beyond their school grounds.  "I think it's important that students use our voice, that we don't want to see that happen to any other school," Gleeson said.

This all leads up to the March 24 March for Our Lives event in Washington D.C. It carries the same message as these walkouts, which is ending gun violence and mass shootings in schools. There are two local March for Our Lives events planned for downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg.

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