Local students to join national walkout on Columbine anniversary

Thursday, April 19, 2018 - 18:28
  • Chugiak High School (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Local students will be among thousands who leave their classrooms Friday morning for a nationwide protest against gun violence.

The Anchorage Daily News reports students across the Anchorage School District will participate in the walkout, which is scheduled to coincide with the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado.

"This is an issue that is affecting every single one of us," said Madison Xiong, a 16-year-old junior at Bartlett High and an organizer of the school's demonstration Friday.

Students at Chugiak High said they plan to walk out at 10 a.m. and gather at the flagpoles in the school parking lot.

CHS senior Sophie Comer said the student-led event is “more in remembrance of Columbine and awareness of gun violence, not the removal of gun rights.”

The idea isn’t to attack the Second Amendment, she said, but to simply raise awareness of gun violence -- a message she said seems to have resonated with her classmates.

“Most of our students are on board with it,” she said.

Eagle River principal Marty Lang said he hadn’t heard much about walkout plans at his school, but said administrators will support students’ ability to have their voices heard.

“We’re going to let students express their rights,” he said. Lang said students who miss class will still be responsible for making up any missed assignments.

“Any classwork they miss is their responsibility,” he said.

The events are part of the National School Walkout, a student-led protest against what participants see as lawmakers' failure to take action to prevent gun violence. Friday's walkouts are the latest demonstrations in a swell of activism after 14 students and three staff members were shot and killed at a Florida high school Feb. 14.

ASD director of secondary education Kersten Johnson-Struempler told the Daily News the district does not approve or disapprove of the demonstrations, but supports free speech as long as it's not disruptive to the school environment. 

If students miss class, she said they'll be marked absent and have to do make-up work, but won't face other punishments like detention. 

"They have the right to voice their opinion about something and we don't want to dissuade them from using that right," she said. 

She said she Friday's planned demonstrations are the largest she's seen in nearly two decades with the district. 

"I've seen protests in very, very small numbers, but this is a pretty big deal." 

For more, visit the Anchorage Daily News.

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