Thousand, or perhaps millions, of students walked out of their classrooms for 17 minutes Wednesday morning at 10 AM local time, in memory of the 17 students killed one month ago at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, at the hands of a shooter with a semiautomatic rifle. Students protested in order to call attention to gun control and school safety.
It would, in fact, be difficult to find a school or area of the country that was not affected by student walkouts. School officials prepared for the protest, which had been planned for some time, especially over social media, in different ways. While not condoning the walkout, school officials in District 211 in Palatine, Illinois, signed a letter to students and parents:
District 211 personnel do not support or condone these walkout activities. We are committed to providing a safe and secure experience for students throughout every school day, including during a potential walkout. In order to help ensure everyone’s safety, we have developed the following guidelines in the event of a student walkout.
Teachers will record student attendance at the beginning of each class period. Students participating in the walkout are expected to remain on campus and any student leaving the campus without proper authority will receive an unexcused absence. Any student participating in the walkout will be expected to return to class immediately following walkout activities. When re-entering the school, students will need to show their school ID. Students failing to return to school in a timely manner may be accountable for their absence.
Other schools, however, guided students participating in the walkout to help them remain safe or held assemblies in the school to talk about school safety. But the protests themselves were marked by the typical eloquence of young speakers, future leaders, and those affected by the violence they’re protesting against.
“We have grown up watching more tragedies occur and continuously asking: Why?” the New York Times quoted Kaylee Tyner, a 16-year-old junior at Columbine High School outside Denver, where 13 people were killed in 1999—inaugurating, in the public consciousness, the era of school shootings—as saying. “Why does this keep happening?”