Bay Area students to participate in national walkout, while others opt out of politics on school day
OAKLAND, Calif. - Students across the nation, including the Bay Area, are staging a national “March For Our Lives” walkout on Wednesday to mark the 17 lives lost in Parkland, Florida and to urge Congress to enact stricter gun control laws.
At 10 a.m., students from Oakland to Union City, San Mateo to Petaluma, and San Ramon to Ross, picked up the megaphones, to hold “die ins” and march around neighborhoods hoping to raise awareness and do what they can with their mass protest to hope that another school massacre will never happen again. At Palo Alto Unified, Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said her district is "applauding students' commitment to be on the forefront of driving social change."
"It's a basic human right to be safe in school," said 15-year-old Samuel Getachew, a sophomore at Oakland Tech. "It's insane that we should have to question that. We have lost too many people not to have done something by now. And this seems to be a turning point. I want to be part of that. I want to be present when that happens."
Samuel wrote and performed a piece of poetry, which won first place at this year's the Oakland Unified School District Martin Luther King Oratorical, about guns and racism. He was also featured in a video by EighteenX18, a storytelling platform for youth.
Students at College Prep in Oakland plan to hold a "die in" for 17 minutes on their Oakland campus, where they will lie on the ground motionless to remember those who died in the Feb. 14 Florida massacre. But student Micalyn Struble said she's actually looking more forward to a quieter part of the protest: Writing letters during lunchtime to key stakeholders from police chiefs to politicians.
"We have a whole spreadsheet of who we're going to write," she said. "I think that will be even more meaningful."
Not everyone, however, is so gung-ho about letting students leave math class to stand on a soapbox during the school day. Milpitas Unified School District Supt. Cheryl Jordan, for example, said the district will not condone student walkouts and anyone who chooses to participate will get an unexcused absence. Individual schools can choose to mark the tragedy with a moment of silence in class. But "leaving campus during school hours to participate in political activity is not a safe and responsible way to work for change," she added.
In Needville, Texas, near Houston, Superintendent Curtis Rhodes warned students who leave class would be suspended for three days, even if they get parental permission.
And in Garretson, South Dakota, administrators canceled a student walkout planned for April 20 after a Facebook posting about the plan drew more than 300 negative comments from adults.
It’s not just some of the grownups who are down on walkouts during class time. Some students don’t want to participate, either. In Columbus, Ohio, high schooler Logan Cole said in a Facebook video he won't be part of the walkout, writing that they are oversimplifying the problem of school violence by advocating more gun control as the solution.
Cole says it's better to honor the Parkland victims in a nonpolitical way. He is inviting classmates to join him in doing that through a memorial service at his school.
The Associated Press and Bay City News contributed to this report.