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DENVER – Students at many schools across Colorado are expected to join others across the country Wednesday morning in protesting school gun violence by walking out of their schools—many for 17 minutes to honor the victims of the shooting at a high school in Florida.
Most of the Colorado walkouts will happen at 10 a.m., though some of the protests will differ by school district or school.
The protests are expected to kick off a wave of similar protests planned in coming weeks—including the March for Our Lives in Washington D.C. scheduled for March 24, and another round of walkouts scheduled for April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting.
Fairview High School in Boulder will have students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in attendance, along with other speakers and booths for voter registration. In Denver, students from several schools plan to march to the state Capitol, while some schools will host education sessions about gun control, mental health and inclusiveness inside of schools.
Jefferson County Schools students are hosting a “unity rally” at 6 p.m. Wednesday, with students, parents, teachers and community representatives – including the father of a boy killed at Columbine – in attendance for a discussion and education session.
In Longmont, there will be a group of parents saying that it should be their job to protest—not that of the students.
Adams 12 Five Star Schools sent a letter home to parents Tuesday night saying they had received about 40 Safe2Tell reports regarding safety concerns.
There has been an array of reaction to the protests, with many districts and law enforcement agencies saying they will support the students and ensure they are safe while they peacefully protest. But others have criticized the planned walkouts, saying they are ineffective and disrupt learning in school.
Longmont mother Kim Crossland put together a group called Parents Step Up, and is urging the students to stay in school and have adults take up their cause instead.
“That is what we teach our children, is your No. 1 priority is school, and then family and then friends. And for me personally, I don’t want my children walking out of schools,” Crossland said. “I’m not saying anything negative about the parents that support their kids walking out of school, I’m saying we need to stand up and all show support regardless of if you believe your kid should walk out or not.”
She said she had concerns about disrupting school and spreading school staffing thin.
“I would rather see parents teach their kid to protest after school hours or on the weekend, actively with them,” Crossland said. “Our kids need to see and know that we are going to step up and we are going to fight with them and fight for them.”
Emmy Adams, a Golden High School senior who is organizing the walkout at her school, says she and other students at her school raised all the money for t-shirts they will wear Wednesday themselves, and that the outpouring of support from the community has been an uplifting experience.
“I’ve always believed in the power of young people. I’ve always believed that we have a voice far more powerful than we think we do,” Adams said. “I hope the message is sent that we are here, we won’t be silenced. We are going to make a change and we won’t back down until that change is made.”
John Adsit was a Denver police officer who was seriously injured a student protest at East High School in 2014 that followed the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. He says he has some “serious” concerns about the walkouts.
In that protest, some students broke the law by walking down the middle of streets and jumping on police cars. He suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, internal bleeding and other injuries after a driver who encountered the students had a seizure and hit him with the vehicle.
He is no longer an officer, but has two students who attend Douglas County schools, and says that he is “absolutely not” against the protest, but rather concerned about safety.
“We absolutely are here as officers sworn to protect the Constitution and right to free speech, but we are not going to tolerate illegal action,” he said.
And Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, an associate professor at CU Denver who focuses on youth voice and sociopolitical development, said he believes the walkout will be beneficial to the students.
“From my particular research, what I’ve seen is youth that are civically engaged tend to have a greater sense of belonging in their school. They develop more positively their identity—not only as citizens, but also more generally speaking. They do better in school, as it turns out,” he said. “These youth are learning early on that they can have an impact and that they’re able to transform not only their communities, but the larger national structure.”
Several Colorado colleges and universities have already said they won’t take into account any protest absences for prospective students. Many of the protests will take place at 10 a.m., and Denver7 will have coverage throughout the day.