When news of the Parkland school shooting first broke, it really resonated with 17-year-old Naomi Giancola.
A junior at Midwood High School in Brooklyn, New York – some 1,200 miles away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the Florida high school where a gunman murdered 17 students and faculty on Feb. 14 – Giancola immediately thought the tragedy could have easily happened at her own school.
“It really hit home because I’m in high school. That could have been my school, that could have been my friends, that could have been me that was shot or running away,” Giancola told Fox News.
So along with 16-year-old Madeline Paterna, Giancola began to arrange for her school to participate in the National School Walkout, a protest led by students demanding action against gun violence, on March 14 – one month after the Parkland school shooting.
“It was really scary to think that could have been us, and I just wanted to do something because I don’t want it to happen again,” Giancola said.
What is the National School Walkout?
For 17 minutes at 10 a.m. across each time zone on March 14, students, school faculty and supporters around the world will walk out of their schools to honor those killed in the massacre at the Parkland high school earlier this year and to protest gun violence.
Those participating are encouraged to wear orange – the color used by many who support gun control. And some schools will even have featured speakers attend the event.
Those at Midwood High will gather at a nearby park to have a moment of silence as the names of the 17 Parkland victims are read aloud. There will also be an opportunity for those to share a poem, song or words of encouragement.
“All we want to do is honor these people’s lives.”
“It’s important for everyone to realize that although it is about guns and it’s political, it’s more to commemorate the lives lost,” Giancola said. “At this point … all we want to do is honor these people’s lives.”
Paterna added that she wanted to “speak out for all the people who died” in the shooting.
“Us as students have to speak out about it and try to get our voices heard because I personally can’t imagine losing 17 people that I know in a school community,” Paterna told Fox News.
Both students acknowledged that they’ve worried about the possibility of a gunman walking into their high school, especially lately, as “there wouldn’t be much to do to stop that person.”
Who organized the walkout?
Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, the organizers of the March 14 demonstration, say the walkout is to “protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”
“Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school,” the event page said.
Cate Whitman, a 17-year-old student at New York City’s LaGuardia High School, partnered with the Women’s March to help plan the walkout. She said she hopes the protest will shed light on the issue of gun violence in general.
“I’m hoping it will bring more focus to the larger issue of gun violence as a whole because gun violence is something that affects people from all walks of life, all over the country, and disproportionately black and brown communities,” Whitman told Fox News. “These things happen all the time in tons of communities, and I’m hoping that people start talking about it in an intersectional way.”
The Women’s March has asked that “all actions be inclusive & non-violent” during the walkouts.
How many schools are participating?
More than 185,000 students are expected to participate in the walkout, according to the latest numbers provided by a Women’s March spokesperson. And a map of participating schools on the event’s website shows the walkout has gone international – with schools in Ireland, Israel and Mexico participating.
Multiple colleges and universities have already said they will not reject students who participate in the protests and walkouts, Reuters reported.
“Yale will NOT be rescinding anyone’s admission decision for participating in peaceful walkouts for this or other causes, regardless of any high school’s disciplinary policy,” Hannah Mendlowitz, the senior assistant director of admissions and director of recruitment for Yale University, said in a blog post. “I, for one, will be cheering these students on from New Haven.”
How do I know if my school is participating?
To find out if your school is participating, plug in your zip code and check out the map on the Women’s March website.
Another nationwide school walkout is scheduled for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. A spokesperson for this walkout confirmed to Fox News that it is not “directly affiliated” with the March event.
And on March 24, “March for our Lives” rallies are scheduled nationwide for demonstrators to protest gun violence.