A month after a 19-year-old opened fire at a Florida high school, killing 17 and wounding others, teachers and students across the nation are participating in a school walkout in support of new gun laws.
In the weeks following the shooting in Parkland, Florida, student survivors and their allies have become vocal advocates for stricter gun control laws, urging Congress to ban assault weapons and require universal background checks before gun sales. They also are calling for lawmakers to pass a gun violence restraining order law that would allow courts to intervene and disarm people who exhibit warning signs of violence.
The idea for the nationwide walkout on Wednesday, March 14, began with EMPOWER, the youth branch of the Women's March organization. Across the country, EMPOWER estimates there will be more than 2,500 walkouts taking place at 10 a.m. local time and lasting for 17 minutes to honor those lives lost at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
In Lake Tahoe, several schools are observing the day with planned events.
At South Tahoe Middle School, students can choose to participate in an activity hosted by the teachers and staff within the school or to walk outside.
"We decided to do an activity called 'What's Your 17?' We will watch a video and focus on how we can help our community and make kids feel included, loved and appreciated," said Fiona Cox, an eighth-grade student at STMS. "Our staff and teachers have been very supportive of students who want to physically walk out. There is a designated place if the activity isn't enough. You have both options which I think is really cool."
Cox said she plans to participate in the activity because she wants to support her school.
"I think the reason I feel so strongly about it is because I think that people recognize it when adults protest, but I think it makes a big impact when kids get politically involved, recognize their rights, and try to make a difference," explained Cox. "It's an important day, and I'm glad our school is recognizing it."
At South Tahoe High School, participating students plan to exit the school at 10 a.m. and gather in front of the building for a minute of silence followed by 17 gong strikes and several speeches. Immediately following the walkout, there will be stations set up in the Student Union where students can register to vote, write letters to Congress, create a banner for the Parkland students, and talk to counselors.
Some students from Incline High School also plan to participate in a walkout on Wednesday, despite pushback from the Washoe County School District.
"As a District, we have always placed a high value on student voice. It is important that our students understand the importance of community engagement and how they can advocate at the legislative level," said the district in a public statement.
"If students decide to participate in a walkout, however, they will be marked tardy or absent (depending on the length of time they are out of class). These will not be excused."
The district asked students to consider other forms of civic engagement like "tying ribbons on the school fences or observing moments of silence."
Nevertheless, Chloe Menzies, a sophomore at Incline High School, said she plans to walk out on Wednesday.
"On March 14, from 10 a.m. to 10:17 a.m. I will be standing out front of my school (a high school without secure single point entry), in support of safer schools and common sense gun reform," said Menzies.
Menzies said she supports improved school security, expanded mental health services for students, raising the age for gun purchases to 21, stronger background checks, mandatory longer waiting periods, as well as the ban of bump fire stocks, high-capacity magazines and assault weapons.
Following the nationwide walkout, a protest organized by the Parkland shooting survivors called "March for Our Lives" is scheduled for Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C.
Satellite marches will take place across the country, including in Reno. The march begins at the Bruce R Thompson Federal Building at 11:30 a.m. and ends at the Believe Plaza downtown.
"We students are done being afraid, we are done with inaction on gun control legislation. We want to be safe at school, we want to be safe anywhere," reads the event's Facebook page.
Another day of observance will take place on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting. The Network for Public Education is calling it "National Day of Action Against Gun Violence in Schools."