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Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are planning to meet with a slew of state legislators and officials when they push for gun control measures at the state Capitol Wednesday, including Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott.
But when they arrive in Tallahassee late Tuesday night, the first to greet them will be high school students like themselves.
Students at nearby Leon High School, just blocks from the Capitol, are opening their cafeteria for their Parkland peers to eat dinner and plan their meetings before they march to the Capitol the following day, said Chris Petley, a Leon County Schools spokesman. They are offering pizza and ice cream donated by local restaurants and a place to plan strategy before the students sleep overnight at the Tucker Civic Center downtown.
“They have an opportunity to know there are other young folks the same age as them that are there to support them if they need to,” said Billy Epting, Leon High School’s principal.
The 100 Broward County students, who are working with Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, are marching to the Capitol early Wednesday morning to meet with legislators and planning a rally at noon pushing lawmakers to pass gun control measures.
Lawmakers in the Capitol have said they are considering a set of reforms on gun control and mental health, including restricting the sale of semi-automatic weapons like AR-15s to those 21 or older.
Local students are also being encouraged to join their Broward County peers at the rally — the district plans to send buses for student government representatives from each county high school to attend, and is granting excused absences to any students who plans to go.
“I hope they take away that there are other high school students that may have not experienced what they did, but that they are as united and behind them as they are,” Epting said. “In the brief encounter we’ll have with them tonight, there’s not a whole lot we can do other than to provide our support.”
The buses left for Tallahassee from a Publix parking lot not far from the Parkland school early Tuesday afternoon.