Students across the nation are planning to walk out of their classes at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 14 for National School Walkout day. Students and advocates say they will walk out of class for 17 minutes to press Congress for tighter gun laws as well as honor the 17 lives that were lost last month during the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Because there are no classes on Wednesday, students at St. Johns Country Day School in Orange Park held their walkout Tuesday morning.
MaryBeth Garrison, an eighth grader at the school and an organizer for the event, handed out 40 orange cookies to the students that attended the walkout. “They were all gone within the first two minutes. There are a lot more people than I thought were going to be here,” she said.
Some students that attended wore orange accessories such as socks, Garrison said. Orange is the color that has been adopted by advocates that try to raise awareness for gun violence.
She estimates there were between 50 and 60 students that stepped out of class for the walkout. “A lot of people I know stayed behind,” Garrison said, adding, “However - the people who came - I know that they’re here, not because they want to miss class. They’re here because they want to make a difference.”
The middle and high school students poured out from their classes to an outdoor area and began the event with a reading of the names of each of the victims of the Parkland, Fla. shooting, followed by a moment of silence. She said the shooting hit really close to home for many of the students, and they took turns taking the stage to share their opinion.
The school opted to not punish students for participating in the walkout according to Garrison. She said the event was supervised by school administration.
Garrison said the event will be followed up Wednesday evening at a fellow student’s house where the students will write letters to Congress and pre-register to vote.
The National School walkout is being organized by the Women’s March Network youth branch EMPOWER. According to the official registry on the website, dozens of schools in Florida have registered to host the walkout.
Of the high schools registered, three Jacksonville schools appear on the list including: Sandalwood, A. Philip Randolph Academies and Douglas Anderson.
Bartram Trail, St. Augustine and Pedro Menendez are the other North Florida schools that appeared on the list at the time of this story’s publication.