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South Florida schools are bracing for walkouts Wednesday, which are expected at more than a dozen campuses in Miami-Dade and Broward counties to mark the one-month anniversary of the Parkland school shooting.
The demonstrations are expected to begin at 10 a.m. and last for 17 minutes in honor of the 17 students and staff members killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High on Feb. 14. In Parkland, Stoneman Douglas students plan to leave class and walk to nearby North Community Park, where they will be joined by hundreds of Parkland residents rallying for stricter gun control laws.
Across the country, more than 2,500 schools are expected to participate in the walkouts, according to Women’s March Youth Empower, the youth group that helped organize the demonstrations.
The protesters are calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and for expanding background checks to all gun sales, among other proposals. They also oppose any legislation that would “aim to fortify our schools with more guns.”
In South Florida, demonstrations have been planned at more than a dozen schools and colleges, including Miami Dade College, iPrep Academy, Miami Country Day School and Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High in Miami-Dade as well as Hollywood Central Elementary and Coral Springs High School in Broward County, according to Empower’s website.
The demonstrations will likely take a variety of forms across the country. Some students plan to circle their school holding hands while others plan to sing songs or read the names of people killed by gun violence, Empower said.
The Miami-Dade and Broward school districts sent letters home to parents this week stating that school administrators will allow students to peacefully protest. The letters referred to the planned demonstrations as a “teachable moment.”
Broward school staff have been instructed to stay with students who walk out of class to ensure that they are supervised and that they remain in a designated area. In Miami-Dade, schools are not allowing students to leave campus, but will allow them to demonstrate on school grounds.
Some Miami-Dade schools have also planned activities and lessons for March 14 “to help students express their support for Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and learn about the issues,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said in the letter.
Not all school districts welcome the demonstrations. Administrators in some parts of the country have said they will suspend students who participate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida sent school superintendents a letter on Monday urging them to “embrace” the walkouts and use them as a teachable moment. The letter cautioned that school administrators can’t punish students for exercising their civil rights.
The national walkout is the latest in a series of protests planned in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Stoneman Douglas students have organized a March 24 “March For Our Lives” in Washington, D.C., and another march in Parkland on the same date. A national demonstration is also planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado.
Students from at least a dozen South Florida high schools also walked out of class on Feb. 21 to honor the Parkland victims and mark the one-week anniversary of the shooting.