|Signs prepared for the #Enough! National School Walk-Out on Wednesday.|
At 10 am tomorrow morning, Wednesday March 14 in your local time zone students at thousands of schools will walk-out to say Enough! to gun violence, school shooting, routine carnage and the lax gun laws and sociopathic gun culture that makes the mayhem possible. At this point 2853 walk-outs have been scheduled and are registered on the web page of Women’s March Youth Empower, the official sponsors and coordinators of the massive protest. Participating will be students from public and private high schools, middle schools and even some elementary schools as well as community colleges, trade schools, and universities. Hundreds more may be planned but not registered, and some may erupt spontaneously as word of the action spreads.
In many places parents, teachers, and staff as well as community members plan to participate. Many school districts have indicated that they will allow the protests to go on with no interference and no punishment for participants. Other districts, however, are warning students that they will enforce class cutting and truancy rules with punishments ranging from warnings to detentions to more extreme actions. Some districts have threatened suspension from class with lost credit, baring extracurricular activities including sports, clubs, and social events like proms. A handful of districts have threatened expulsion of “trouble makers” and organizers, forbidding participation in graduation exercisers, and perhaps selective criminal prosecution.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says that while school districts can enforce existing attendance rules they cannot penalize speech. They have prepared a short educational video advising students of their rights that has been widely shared on social media.
So, what exactly is the plan tomorrow. Officially the call is for a 17-minute walk-out at 10 am in your local time zone. That symbolically reflects the 17 students who died at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on the one-month anniversary of the mass murder. What will occur during the walk-outs is up to local organizers, who by in large are the kids themselves, although some parents are involved at some schools and in other cases includes the blessing of school administrators. There may be silent vigils, prayers, rallies and speeches, news conferences, and marching or picketing. In some cases, there may be little more than milling around.
Some walk-outs have announced plans for things like die-ins and some kind of civil disobedience. It is also likely that not everyone will file back into school at the end of 17 minutes. Some will march to the offices of local Congressmen, city halls, Federal buildings, or other public gathering spaces. Some will march from school to school within a district or participants from multiple schools will come together for a mass event. Some may opt to turn the brief walk out into a one-day student strike.
That’s what happens when the national sponsoring organizations do not try to control local responses beyond broad parameters and is a simple acknowledgement of the powerlessness to do so. And who are the organizers? Apart from some adult volunteers and advisors Women’s March Youth Empower, a project of the Women’s March which has pulled off historic mass events for the last two years, is youth led and managed. Dozens of national, state, and local organizations have endorsed the walk out and may be involved in planning specific events. National organizations include the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, The Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, High School Democrats of America, Moms Rising, National Council of Jewish Women, National LGBTQ Task Force, Newtown Action Alliance, Organizing for Action, Planned Parenthood, and Indivisible.
Of course, any mass protest like this is bound to whip up backlash, especially when the hot button like guns is involved. There are reports of the usual anonymous threats made in social media or by phone to school districts, local organizations, and student organizers when they can be identified. Most are the usual hot air and bluster of gun nuts, but some police departments are taking special precautions. On the other hand, in Texas and parts of the South police themselves are promising “stern action” against “lawbreaking walks-outs,” perhaps putting students as much in danger from authorities as from NRA shills.
Some counter protests are planned. In Illinois and outfit called Overpasses for America, whose website is described as “extreme right, propaganda, fake news” by Media Bias Fact Check is planning a rally near Romeoville High School. Spokeswoman Savannah Denvir charged that “Public education in America today is almost the opposite of education. It's indoctrination!” and Women’s March Empower is “using these children for a leftist agenda by making them believe it is a unity walk-out.” While disavowing any threat, Denvir pointedly said that some counter demonstrators “may be armed, as is their right.” Illinois is not an open carry state but since 2013 it does allow concealed carry by citizens with easily obtainable permits.
The national walk-out on Wednesday is just the first of three major events in response to school shooting, which has caused some public confusion. Parkland shooting survivors themselves are organizing a mammoth March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. and over 500 sibling marches around the country on Saturday March 24. The credibility, eloquence, and organizational savvy of the Parkland students has drawn widespread support, including donations of $500,000 each to pay for expenses from celebrities George and Amal Clooney, Oprah Winfield, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg. A march in Chicago is expected to rival the 750,000 who attended this year’s Women’s March. And in my neck of the woods many will respond to Woodstock where last March thousands ringed the Square to proclaim Hate Has No Home in Woodstock and counter a Pro-Trump, anti-immigrant rally around the Gazebo. Even in the heart of traditionally deep Red McHenry County. Times are changing.
In the works even longer, The National High School Walk-Out is scheduled for Friday, April 20, the 19th Anniversary of the first modern mass high school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado back in 1997. Also planned and organized by students, the National High School Walk-Out was the brainchild of Lane Murdock who lives just 20 minutes away from Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 students and six staff members were gunned down in December 2012.
There was discussion of combining one or more of these three events. But organizers of each agreed that it was best to keep up the heat on Congress and the NRA with relentless actions that show that this time the issue will not just go away as people’s short-term memory grows dim.
The old proprietor of Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout encourages you to participate in or support all these important actions.
Here in Illinois, there will be wide spread participation in #Enough Student Walk-Out. In Chicago where too many students are shooting victims of gang violence, street crime, domestic abuse, suicide, and accidental deaths if not mass shootings, public schools are tacitly supporting the walk out and promise that no student will be punished for participating in the 17 minute announced walk-outs. They hold out the possibility absence punishment for longer actions. That will probably vary at the discretion of principals. In the case of thousands of participants, no one expects wide-spread discipline.
Suburban districts are all over the map about what they will “allow” and/or punish. Walk-outs are expected to be ubiquitous regardless.
|Woodstock High School will be one of several McHenry County Schools with a Walk-Out.|
Here in McHenry County several walk-outs have registered their plans:
Woodstock High School, 501 W South Street
McHenry County College, 8900 US Rte. 14, Crystal Lake
Prairie Ridge High School, 6000 Dvorak Drive, Crystal Lake
Crystal Lake Central High School, 45 W Franklin Street, Crystal Lake
Parent Solidarity Event near Jacobs High School, Northwest Corner of Harnish Drive and Randall Road, Algonquin
Richmond Burton Community High School, 8311 State Route 31, Richmond
There are quite likely walk outs in the works but not registered at most, if not all, area high schools as well.
Parents, do you know where your children will be? Students, do you know if your parents have your back?