To protest gun violence, students in Philly-area schools will walk out Wednesday

APTOPIX School Shooting Student Protests
Similar walkouts have already happened in cities like Pittsburgh, where high school students marched Feb. 21 to show support for Parkland, Fla., students.

Some teachers and students in the Philadelphia region are expected to walk out of their schools for 17 minutes Wednesday, the one-month anniversary of the high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., to demand that Congress take action to better protect the public from gun violence.

The protests, scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., are part of the #NationalSchoolWalkout organized by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER. Each minute will represent a person slain in Parkland.

Nationally, some schools have threatened to suspend students for participating, while others have supported the right to walk out. Philadelphia schools Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. told parents that participating students will not be disciplined — but that they should return to class afterward. Some students have urged Hite to let them protest throughout the day.

“The work to improve school safety is more than 17 minutes and more than a march,” students from 13 schools and the Philadelphia Student Union wrote in a letter to Hite. “We feel that by limiting us to only 17 minutes, our voices are actively being silenced.”

In North Jersey, the Sayreville school district has said it plans to suspend students who walk out. That has drawn ire from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said “districts should embrace moments like this to teach the importance of civic engagement and democracy.”

It’s not yet clear precisely how many local schools will take part in the walkout. Some participating include Science Leadership Academy, Franklin Learning Center, Germantown Friends School, and Lower Merion High School.

In Philadelphia, Holy Family University has said it supports students and staff walking out.

The walkout will be followed by a March for Our Lives rally on March 24 in Washington, Philadelphia, and other cities, and another student walkout on April 20, the 20th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in Colorado.

Some school-safety protests have already occurred. At Cherry Hill High School East, students walked out two weeks ago over the suspension of Timothy Locke, a teacher who had expressed his fear that a crime similar to the Parkland massacre could happen at the school. The school is organizing a walk for students Wednesday.

Cherry Hill High School East protest
Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff photographer
Cherry Hill High School East senior Sammy Miller addresses the school board Feb. 27, after two days of protests by hundreds of students over the suspension of history teacher Timothy Locke.

The outcry over the shooting in Parkland, a largely white and wealthy suburb northwest of Fort Lauderdale, has also raised questions of why everyday gun violence in communities of color in cities like Philadelphia hasn’t received the same attention.

“There’s just a disconnect — when something happens in the white community, the black community is expected to support them, but people don’t stand up for the black community,” Tatiana Amaya, a student at Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker, told my colleague Kristen Graham. “The focus isn’t ‘What can we do to make black and brown kids feel safe in school?’ ”

Others have acknowledged the unequal treatment but encouraged people to join the walkouts. Columnist Jenice Armstrong plans to be at Germantown Friends School.

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