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Many Littleton Public Schools students plan to participate in a fresh round of school walkouts next week to advocate for gun law reform and school safety, part of a national groundswell of student activism in the wake of a Florida school shooting that left 17 dead.
LPS students previously participated in walkouts Feb. 21 in response to the shooting, with about 30 students joining a protest at the state Capitol.
The #ENOUGH walkout is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 14, exactly a month after a shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Students and other groups nationwide plan to participate in walkouts that morning, part of an effort organized by Women's March Youth Empower, the youth activist wing of the Women's March group, which has organized marches and protests since early 2017, according to the website womensmarch.com.
MORE: Students in Douglas County School District also planning walkouts
Students plan to leave school for 17 minutes during the walkout, one minute to remember each life lost in the Florida shooting, said Paul Gordon, a junior at Arapahoe High School, who is listed as the contact for his school's march.
“We want to put pressure on lawmakers locally and nationally for common-sense gun reform across the country,” Gordon said. “We're also not ignoring mental health concerns and other aspects. It's only 17 minutes long, so we're not missing a lot of school.”
A news release for the national walkout effort lists support for an assault-weapons ban and an expansion of background checks to all gun sales, and opposition to a nationalizing of concealed carry laws and efforts to arm teachers.
Gordon said he's passionate about gun law reform and school safety issues.
“This issue matters as much as those 17 lives in Florida matter,” Gordon said. “It matters as much the victims of the Columbine shooting or the Aurora theater shooting. It matters as much as Claire Davis' life mattered.”
Claire Davis was a student murdered at Arapahoe High School in 2013 by a student gunman who moments later took his own life.
As of March 5, a website for the walkouts, womensmarch.com/enough, showed that students at Arapahoe High School and Powell Middle School planned to participate, and there was a listing for a protest by parents of Peabody Elementary School students.
Students at Littleton High School plan to participate as well, said Kyle Griggs, an LHS senior who helped organize the walkout in February.
Griggs said she sees the walkout as a way to keep up the momentum of student-led protest.
“Unfortunately, thanks to the way our society operates, we're already starting to forget” the Parkland shooting, Griggs said. “This upcoming walkout is a good reminder to respect the people who were lost, and to keep advocating for change.”
The walkouts will be closed to the public and surrounded by a heightened law enforcement presence, said Littleton Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ewert.
LPS high schools have open campuses, Ewert said, making widespread walkouts likely. The district's middle schools will allow students outside for 17 minutes under close supervision, and elementary schools will not allow students outside unless properly signed out and escorted by a parent or guardian.
Ewert said school officials are aware such events can get emotional.
“We're aware there will be an anti-gun sentiment, and that many in our community are firm believers in gun rights,” Ewert said. “We saw this at the first walkout (on Feb. 21) when some kids were shouting at others around gun rights. We could very well see counter-demonstrations, and we'll be very careful to ask people what part of the demonstration they're supporting.”
Students who participate in the walkout won't be penalized, Ewert said, adding that he sees the events as teachable moments.
“Part of growing up in America, and particularly at the high school level, is to begin to understand your rights and responsibilities as a citizen of a free and democratic society,” Ewert said. “It's our responsibility to facilitate those conversations in schools. We use these opportunities to allow kids to have these debates in a safe and respectful manner. That's the power of public schools.”
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