Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and other South Florida schools plan to join their peers across the country in protests commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting.
Organizers of the National School Walkout, an event planned by Connecticut high school students in the wake of the Feb. 14 massacre at Stoneman Douglas High, are calling for a nationwide walkout at 10 a.m. on April 20 to protest gun violence. Students at more than a dozen South Florida schools have signed up to participate.
Some Stoneman Douglas students told the Miami Herald they plan to walk out as part of their continuing movement for stricter gun control laws. Others said they will participate in activities organized by the school to honor the victims of the Colorado high school shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher in 1999.
In a message to students and their families, Stoneman Douglas principal Ty Thompson encouraged students to stay on campus. "It is the wish of the Columbine community, to give back with service or a day without hate, versus a walkout and I will honor those wishes, as Mr. DeAngelis, Former Principal at Columbine, has been a great sounding board for me during these trying times," he said.
Stoneman Douglas High "will be doing some limited service projects around campus" and other "structured activities" will take place during classes, Thompson said. Students and staff will also have the opportunity to sign banners sending messages of support to Columbine High.
Sari Kaufman, a sophomore at the school and one of the organizers of the March For Our Lives in Parkland, said she thought Friday would be "more of a healing day" than a protest. "We feel like we're helping other people since so many people gave support to us," she said.
Kaufman said the Stoneman Douglas students who helped organize the March 24 Parkland protest have been in contact with their peers at Columbine High and have discussed how students at both schools plan to spend the day. Columbine students have traditionally marked the shooting anniversary with a day of volunteer service.
The March For Our Lives Parkland organizers are also working with students at other Broward County schools to help them organize voter registration drives for April 20, Kaufman said. Although Stoneman Douglas has already held its annual voter registration drive, Thompson said in his message that students will be able to register to vote before school and during lunchtime.
Nadine Drew, a spokeswoman for the Broward County school district, said on Wednesday that she did not have information about the activities planned at other Broward County schools, but that she believes some schools plan to create service projects and dedicate them to the victims of the Columbine shooting.
Both Miami-Dade and Broward said that if students decide to participate in the walkouts, school administrators will attempt to keep the protests on campus to ensure the students' safety. Students who leave campus could face disciplinary actions.
"It is not, nor has it ever been a practice for the District to permit our schools to be used as politicized venues," the Broward school district said in a statement. "BCPS continues to support our students’ rights to make their voices heard and encourages peaceful and lawful protests only."
Nationwide, more than 2,100 walkouts are planned for Friday, according to the event organizers.