On April 20, 1999, 12 teenagers and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School. Nearly 20 years later, another 17 people lost their lives in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. In an effort to demand gun policy change and highlight the long legacy of gun violence at schools, a protest is planned for the tragic anniversary — and the time the National School Walkout will happen will depend on where you are.
The event is being organized by four students at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut. Lane Murdock, the executive director, is a sophomore and writes on the walkout's website that she "sees this movement as the first great accomplishment of her generation."With 2,500 events registered thus far across the nation, Murdock is playing a key role in the teen-led push to enact gun control reform.
The walkout is scheduled to commence at 10 a.m. for each time zone. So students who participate on the East Coast will do so three hours before kids on the Pacific Coast leave class.
Schools across the country are preparing for this walkout, coming just a little over a month after a previous protest drew students out of class on March 14. But there is one major difference between the National Walkout Day happening April 20 and the one from March — the length of the protest itself.
Unlike the previous walkout, this National School Walkout does not have a set time limit. (The walkout on March 14 lasted 17 minutes for the 17 victims in Parkland.) Murdock explained that choice to ABC News, saying, "This is a problem that needs to be addressed longer than 17 minutes."
Murdock told Bustle's Erin Delmore in February that the support she and her fellow organizers received for this protest is "proof that we are open and willing to work hard for change."
"A lot of the kids in high school right now have been surrounded by it their whole lives," Murdock told Bustle of gun violence. "I think if you add those two things together, you're going to get really motivated kids with a lot of powerful tools."
It's not yet known how many young people will participate in the walkout, but some schools are bracing for a significant number of absences. Schools in Richmond, Virginia are predicting 10,000 student participants.
The goal of the walkout's organizers is similar to that of the Parkland students behind the March for Our Lives. Murdock and fellow organizer Grant Yuan told ABC they hope it keeps pressure on gun control reform efforts, including a ban on bump stocks and mandatory background checks.
Another goal for the walkout? Using all the time students aren't in school to do something proactive. Since the National School Walkout is asking students to leave school for the day, Murdock recently told NPR they want young people to harness those hours out of their formal education setting to enact change. They're hoping young people will register to vote, help others do the same, and perhaps write letters to elected officials pushing them to support gun control reform.
According to NPR, their effort is being supported partially by the political organization Indivisible. They've helped the students get their national chapters organized. Students and other interested parties can check the National School Walkout website to find out if a walkout is scheduled for their school — or register one themselves.