FLEMINGTON, NJ – A protest to encourage a walkout at public schools is being organized by the Women’s March Youth Empower group.
The event has been scheduled for March 14, which will be the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Students, teachers, parents and allies plan to walk out of schools in support of new gun control-related legislation. The nationwide event is to take place at 10 a.m across all time zones. Participants are asked to leave their classrooms for 17 minutes, which represents one minute for each person who died in Parkland on Valentine’s Day last week.
The Women’s March group also organized a protest in Washington following the inauguration of President Trump. The group is using the hashtags #NationalSchoolWalkout and #ENOUGH in publicizing the event on social media.
Listings of area locales for the walkout on the event’s planning website currently include Hillsborough High School; New Hope Solebury High School and Middle School; Princeton High School; Ewing High School; and Warren Hills High School. What began as a light peppering of participating schools on the site’s map has become a sea of blue in the few days it has been live. And the sea continues to rise.
Hunterdon Central Regional High School was included briefly on Wednesday in the list of hosting locales. By Wednesday evening, that listing had been removed.
The organizational contact for the now-deleted #NationalSchoolWalkout event for Hunterdon Central High School, according to the movement’s website, was Olivia Crimmons. On the event page, Crimmons provided the following instructions to potential participants. “At 10 am during your second block class walk to Stewart Field in solidarity of the Parkland shooting victims. Feel free to wear orange and make signs!
“Join us in saying #ENOUGH!”
On Central’s potential participation in the protest, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Moore said in an emailed statement, “We admire Hunterdon Central students for wanting to express support for and solidarity with the community of Parkland, Florida. We are working with our students to ensure a safe and meaningful experience, and are not yet ready to announce any plans.”
“As a parent, citizen and educator ... I support all school safety initiatives,” said Dr. Johanna Ruberto, the interim superintendent at Flemington-Raritan School District in an emailed statement. Ruberto said that she will be forwarding information about the #NationalSchoolWallkout to school board committees for discussion. Ruberto said she will also be going to Washington.
Public response has been mixed. Nathalie Nelson, mother to a preschool son who will enter FRSD in a few years, is in favor of it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong. My family owns guns, but I do think there needs to be more control.
“I’m just concerned that a child or anyone that shouldn’t have a gun still gets access to a gun,” Nelson said. “I believe part of it is mental illness, but it’s just way too easy for someone to access a gun ... Even now at age three I’m so afraid of someone coming into his preschool and start shooting.”
Others on social media sites raised a number of concerns about the initiative. Some objections were related to a philosophical difference on the appropriateness of gun control legislation in general. Others expressed practical concerns with how such a walkout would work.
In Houston on Tuesday, one superintendent threatened to suspend participating students. The Houston Chronicle reported that Needville Superintendent Curtis Rhodes plans to issue three-day, out-of-school suspensions to students who disrupt school or walk out of school to participate in gun control-related protests. In a letter to parents on the issue, Rhodes noted, “We will discipline no matter if it is one, fifty, or five hundred students involved." He also added, “All will be suspended for 3 days and parent notes will not alleviate the discipline."
Other nationwide, planned protests include March for Our Lives on March 24 and #NationalWalkout on April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine shootings.
March for Our Lives is being organized by Stoneman Douglas student Cameron Kasky. On Tuesday, George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Steven Spielberg each donated $500,000 to the effort.
#NationalWalkout is also organized by a student, Lane Murdock of Connecticut. As of this morning, Murdock’s petition had more than 142,000 signatures of support on Change.org.