More kids are expected to take part in school walkouts Friday across the country and in East Tennessee. Students will be demonstrating as a way to express their frustrations over gun violence.
A Change.org petition started by a Connecticut teenager is asking students to walkout, wear orange and protest online, weeks after the massacre at a Parkland, Florida, high school. The national walkout falls on April 20, marking 19 years since the Columbine school shooting.
The demonstrations in East Tennessee on Friday are being organized by students and Knox County School administrators say it will look differently depending on where students attend. This is not a school or school system endorsed demonstration.
Zoe Brookshire-Risley, 17, is a senior at West High School and a survivor of gun violence.
“The summer of 2008 I was in a performance of Annie Jr. at my church Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and a man walked in with a shotgun and he opened fire,” she said.
The teen says she wants that kind of fear to end.
“We shouldn’t be seeing headlines every week about another mass shooting,” said Brookshire-Risley.
Many students at West High School will be walking out on Friday, rallying and demanding for change.
“Our mission is kind of twofold. We want to send a message to our representatives and send a message that this is something that’s important to us. But we also want to encourage students to use their voices, register to vote, and become politically active,” said Brookshire-Risley.
At Bearden High School administrators are wanting to see what students have planned and will use it as a lesson.
“No matter what political opinion they have, no matter what they believe or for whatever reason that they know how to express it in a way that’s respectful, that they can get action if necessary,” said Principal Dr. John Bartlett.
Bartlett says students generally have free speech on their time, between classes or before or after school, and when it comes to Friday’s walkout.
“We understand what’s going on in our country, around the world. I think tomorrow is one of those exceptions you say ‘Use this as a learning tool to learn about democracy and learn about how to have voices heard in a respectful manner,” said Bartlett.
Schools have safe places for students to rally and it will only be happening during this one period. Afterwards kids are expected to go back to class.
“We’re doing this for our safety and we’re doing this for our lives,” said Brookshire-Risley.
Those at West High School taking part in the walkout will be considered a class cut. At Bearden High School, administrators say students participating will essentially be excused. However, if they leave campus or continue to cut classes throughout the day, they will be disciplined appropriately.
Every administrator will be handling National Walkout Day differently. Knox County Schools has not said which schools will be participating.