Hundreds of Clark County students are expected to walk out of classes on Wednesday as part of a national event to remember the victims of last month’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and call attention to school safety and gun laws.
Students from at least a dozen high schools across the Las Vegas Valley and at UNLV have planned demonstrations to begin at 10 a.m. on the one-month anniversary of the Florida shooting, according to websites helping coordinate the events nationwide. At least one was listed for local middle school as well.
The walkouts, which are occurring across the country, are expected to last at least 17 minutes — one for each victim at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — though some are slated to last longer, with speakers and presentations.
The Clark County School District initially opposed the walkouts, warning that students could face consequences if they participated. But officials later softened that stance, noting in a message to parents that it’s acceptable for students to participate in activities that are approved by their administrator beforehand.
It was not clear Tuesday if all the walkouts publicized by organizers were sanctioned or if demonstrations will occur at other schools.
Unexcused absences may still bring consequences, such as a notification sent home to parents and the inability to participate in extracurricular activities that day. Parents can excuse their students for activities outside school, including the walkouts.
‘I got really angry’
Liberty High School freshman Andrew Wilson, who has helped plan an event there, said he began organizing after seeing other students across the nation doing so.
“I got really angry, because I hadn’t seen that at my school and it’s been a world of confusion with students talking about the issue,” he said.
He said the biggest goal of the Liberty event would be to push for changing gun laws, although other walkouts might have different goals.
School police will be monitoring the walkouts, said Capt. Ken Young.
Police have contingency plans in place, he said, but he would not detail what those were or whether there will be an increased police presence in schools.
“We hope that if there is any activity, it would all be peaceful— that is our desire,” he said. “We would hope that they would stay in class tomorrow and figure out other ways to advance their concerns and their cause, but we do know that there is a great possibility that students may walk out.”
Some principals have urged parents and students to think of other ways to demonstrate their concerns.
At Mannion Middle School in Henderson, Principal Todd Petersen said in a message to parents that he does not support students participating in a walkout. Instead, he said, the school will hold a letter-writing campaign to elected officials at 9:35 a.m.
“I ask for your support and for you to discourage your student from jeopardizing safety to participate in a walkout,” the message stated. “I ask you to encourage your student to write a serious letter to an elected official during this time and emphasize that this is a positive and appropriate way to have their voices heard.”
UNLV students are also planning a demonstration, followed by several speakers.
Karl Catarata, a UNLV student activist, said he’s hoping for 150 attendees.
“We are asking for Congress folks and our legislators to pass effective policy and effective legislation to making sure our communities are safer from what has been going on in this country for years upon years upon years,” he said. “And truly, enough is enough. We need to have effective policies that will protect our students and protect our schools from being battlegrounds for people who are interested in seeking out terror.”
UNLV school police will be monitoring the event, Catarata said.
Students aren’t the only ones organizing to show their concerns.
Desiree Acedo, a mother of three students in Clark County, is planning a protest outside Las Vegas City Hall. She said the goal isn’t to ban all guns, but to lobby for a re-examination of existing laws.
“Something has to be done,” she said. “We’ve got to catch their attention somehow. And across the nation there’s many groups like myself — parents, children alike — that are just saying enough is enough.”
Local walkouts planned
The following Clark County schools plan to hold walkouts or some other event, according to two national planning websites or students and parents:
— Basic High School.
— Bonanza High School.
— Clark High School.
— Coral Academy of Science Las Vegas.
— Coronado High School.
— Del Sol Academy.
— Desert Oasis High School.
— Green Valley High School.
— Las Vegas Academy.
— Legacy High School.
— Liberty High School.
— Rogich Middle School.
— Silverado High School.
— Spring Valley High School.
— The Meadows School.
— Valley High School.
Students at UNLV also are planning a walkout. They will gather at the free speech zone on campus, which is the corridor outside of the Classroom Building Complex, and march to the alumni amphitheater, where several students plan to speak.