LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Students across the city plan to walk out of classes Wednesday morning, a month after a teen gunman opened fire at a South Florida high school, killing 17 people.
Groups across the state and the nation will stand in solidarity during the National School Walkout to protest gun violence and will have a 17-minute moment of silence, one minute for each of the victims of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
Ahead of the walkouts, 19 Los Angeles-area student leaders met with Mayor Eric Garcetti to discuss gun violence, possible legislation to curb gun deaths and mental illness.
“Even though we cannot vote, we do realize we have a voice and it’s valuable,” said high school senior Danielle Rawles.
“I think the biggest point of this walkout is inspiring broader activism,” echoed senior Eli Tominer.
“The larger area that we talked about is what can we do in education intervention,” said Garcetti after the meeting. “Can you go up to that student who’s sitting by himself always and begin to have that conversation?”
On-campus, student-led assemblies and forums to speak in support of gun control. Students from the Los Angeles Unified School District were encouraged last month not to leave campus by the acting superintendent.
Whether students’ absences are marked “unexcused” will be up to individual principals.
The American Civil Liberties Union chapter of Southern California said Tuesday students should be able to exercise their First Amendment rights, saying on their site, “Citing California Education Code, the ACLU stated that students may not be suspended for participating in walkouts or off-campus protests. School officials may choose to punish students less harshly (or not at all) for participating in walk-outs and protests, as long as all expressive activity is treated equally regardless of content or viewpoint.”
The Los Angeles Police Department is pushing students to participate in on-campus demonstrations.
“The department understands the need for students to participate in peaceful dialogue within the parameters of school administrators, however, the safety of our young adults relies on their willingness to remain on campus under the protection of the Los Angeles Unified School Police Department,” the LAPD said.
Superintendent for the Fontana Unified School District Randal Bassett said Tuesday, “On the 14, our schools will be empowering our students with age-appropriate school site activities designed to proactively address student safety, while honoring the victims in Parkland, Fla.”
In Pasadena, student Katrina Yuzefpolsky plans be part of her school’s demonstration. When Yuzefpolsky was 8, a man in a Santa Claus costume entered a Christmas party she was attending, shooting her in the face and killing nine of her family members.
Now 17, she’s a vocal proponent of changes towards stricter gun laws.
“I’ve lived through it, and I’m still living my life as best as I can,” the La Salle High junior told the Associated Press. “It’s not stopping me, it’s not instilling fear in me. I want that change. I don’t want other families to go through what me and my family went through.”
She and her fellow La Salle classmates produced a video called “WALK,” which she told AP was a part of her healing process. The video starts with the now-famous refrain from Stoneman Douglas High students in the days after the shooting, “We call B.S.”
The nationwide demonstrations are slated to begin at 10 a.m Wednesday.
There will be on-campus activities at the following schools:
- Carson High School
- Eagle Rock Junior/Senior High School
- Francis Polytechnic High School
- Venice High School
- Miguel Contreras Learning Complex
- Culver City High School
- Crescenta Valley High School