Sunday, March 25News That Matters

A generation shaped by gun violence will make itself heard today

The National School Walkout started Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET and will continue across the country at 10 a.m. in each time zone. The protest was sparked by last month’s school massacre in Parkland, Florida, and fueled by years of anger about what many say are inadequate gun laws.
Student walkouts sweep the US: Live updatesStudent walkouts sweep the US: Live updates
Those participating have three main demands for Congress:
— Ban assault weapons
— Require universal background checks before gun sales
— Pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to disarm people who display warning signs of violent behavior
Students will stay outside for 17 minutes — one minute for each of the 17 people killed in the Parkland massacre exactly one month ago.
But even before the walkout officially started, Maryland high school students stepped out Wednesday morning to demand stricter gun laws.
Escorted by slow-moving police cars, students from Montgomery Blair High School marched to a metro station, where they plan to take a train to the White House.

Scenes too familiar

When Jackson Mittleman opened a news alert on his phone on Valentine’s Day, he saw a tragically familiar image: Students with their hands raised, fleeing a shooting.
It brought him back to December 14, 2012, when similar images from his hometown of Newtown, Connecticut, were broadcast around the country. On that day, his community joined what he calls a family “no one wants to be a part of.”
Now the people of Parkland, Florida have joined it, too. His heart ached for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
“Is it ever going to stop?” he asked himself.
Mittleman was an 11-year-old sixth-grader when a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary, two miles from his school — a tragedy that changed the course of his life.
Now 16, he’s a gun control advocate who’s joining the national school walkout on Wednesday that’s part memorial and part protest.
“A message we’re trying to send to Parkland is we stand behind them,” said Jackson, co-chair of the Jr. Newtown Action Alliance, who is organizing the walkout at Newtown High School. “We are motivated and we are fired up to push as hard as they push and fight as long as they fight.”

A national day of protest

Organizers from the Women’s March youth branch started calling for students across the country to walk out of class on March 14, to pressure lawmakers to act on gun control.
Now, in addition to walkouts, students across the country are planning rallies, marches and sit-ins — some in open defiance of their school districts.
What you need to know about the national school walkoutWhat you need to know about the national school walkout
Participants say they want to make sure that calls for change in the wake of Parkland take into account the broader context of gun violence in the United States. For D’Angelo McDade, a senior at North Lawndale College Prep High School in Chicago, gun violence is personal — but not because of a shooting at school.
He was shot in the thigh as he sat on his front porch in the summer of 2017, leaving bullet fragments in his body, he said. As soon as he was released from the hospital, he started talking to his principal about ways to fight gun violence. On Wednesday, he’s leading more than half of the school’s 600 students on a walkout to converge with teens from other schools.
“Many of our community members and young adults have established a sense of hopelessness and normalized the suffering that comes with gun violence,” he said. “But they’re ready to see a change.”

Penalties for walking out

Some school districts have said they will discipline students who participate in the walkouts.
If you're planning to take part in the national school walkout, read thisIf you're planning to take part in the national school walkout, read this
Students who leave classes in New Richmond, Ohio, for example, will receive an “unexcused tardy,” the district said. For students in Montgomery County, Maryland, walking out will count as an unexcused absence.
In the Atlanta suburb of Cobb County, Georgia, the school district said it will take disciplinary action — ranging from Saturday school to five days’ suspension per district guidelines — against students who walk out, citing safety concerns.
The prospect has deterred some students, but not all of them, Pope High School senior Kara Litwin said.
“Change never happens without backlash,” she said Tuesday. “This is a movement, this is not simply a moment, and this is only the first step in our long process.”

Growing up in the shadow of gun violence

Students who planned to participate in the walkouts said they feel their generation has been profoundly shaped by the specter of gun violence. By raising their voices, they hope they will be the last kids to grow up with metal detectors and active shooter drills.
Sam Craig of Littleton, Colorado, was not alive during the 1999 Columbine High School shooting that put his hometown on the map. But the tragedy has shaped his life.
He grew up with school lockdown drills performed in the name of Columbine. His internship at Denver Zoo includes live shooter drills that include references to Columbine. He knows a teacher who was at Columbine during the shooting, who shares his view that school staff should not be armed, he said.
They survived a school shooting. Now, activism feels more urgent than classes.They survived a school shooting. Now, activism feels more urgent than classes.
But the Chatfield High School junior said the community is stronger because of the shooting. People look out for each other because they don’t want anyone to feel “pushed to the point of no return” like the Columbine shooters, he said.
Each year, the town comes together on the anniversary for a day of service, he said.
“We try to find that balance to make our community more connected and loving,” said Craig, who is organizing the walkout at his school.
Abigail Orton, a junior at Columbine High School, said she was inspired to take action on Wednesday by the quick progress of the Parkland students.
“I am absolutely amazed at the amount that they’ve already accomplished, getting their voices out there and being able to speak on this so recently after the event, and to be able to use their status to start bringing about change,” she said.
“I’m honored to be able to call this my generation and to be part of this movement.”

CNN’s Bill Kirkos, Brad Parks, Chuck Johnston, Amanda Watts, Gianluca Mezzofiore and Leslie Holland contributed to this report.

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