A group of 23 students from Lassiter, Pope, Walton and Wheeler High Schools are organizing walkouts in solidarity with the National Walkout on March 14 at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes. The 17 minutes are symbolic of the 17 people who were killed in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting one month prior on February 14.
In a letter to Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale, the organizers said, “As a collective group, we the students of Lassiter, Pope, Walton and Wheeler have formed an alliance across the county to inform you of our decision to stand united and walk out of class for 17 minutes. We have passionately embraced the call for smart and nonpartisan gun control laws to be enacted…Each school will be doing something different during the event.” Potential activities listed include voter registration, speeches and moments of silence.
Students are not required to participate.
Hannah Andress, a senior at Lassiter, is one of the organizers. Her two younger sisters inspired her to get involved.
“Since I’m graduating this year, they are the reason I’m pushing for increased school safety. I could not imagine losing them while I’m far from home,” she said. “At Lassiter, we will be encouraging our participants to videotape the walkout and take pictures and send them to our state representatives.” Lassiter events will also include reading the names of the victims and speeches from students. Andress’ younger sister Rebekah, a freshman, is also an organizer and will be one of the speakers.
“We are the revolution and change is now,” Andress said. “Our voices will be heard so that 100 years down the line another student will not have to dry their tears wondering where in history they lost their voice.”
Some school districts have already issued statements on how they will handle the walkouts. Marietta City Schools and DeKalb County will allow the peaceful protest on March 14. The DeKalb statement went on to say that they “also respect those students who choose not to participate in these planned events.” Fulton County will consider a walkout an unexcused absence and students will be subject to discipline. However, they will be allowed “to express themselves in a structured, organized and safe manner through activities that would not disrupt the school day.”
Cobb County Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale will meet with principals Wednesday to discuss the matter before issuing a statement on how Cobb will address the walkouts. Though Board Member David Chastain didn’t wish to comment on the issue before an official statement is made, he did say, “CCSD is responsible for, and takes very seriously, the safety and security of over 112,000 students in 112 schools.” CCSD has 16 high schools and 25 middle schools. There are 34,609 high school students in the county.
There may be more student-planned walkouts on April 20 as part of the National School Walkout in commemoration of the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.