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Student activists, protesting armed violence, time of last stop to Columbine anniversary

Last month, tens of thousands of protesters squeezed into Pennsylvania Avenue during the "March for our lives" demonstration in support of gun control. (Alex Brandon / AP)

Students calling for an end to gun violence left school on Friday, the 19th anniversary of the school shooting in Columbine, Colorado, an event that ushered in an era of school outrage mortals

Friday's strikes were started by Lane Murdock, a 16-year-old boy at Ridgefield High School in Connecticut, who started an online petition calling for the protest after the shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 14 students and three members of the dead staff. Strikes are planned in more than 2,000 schools nationwide, Murdock said.

Several hundred students in the Washington region left their schools on Friday morning and organized a vigil outside the White House to honor the victims of Columbine and other victims of gun violence. [19659005] Aniyah Smith, 17, knew that not everyone in her community could come to the District to attend another school strike. Then, she had an idea: Collect letters from her classmates, teachers, community.

On Friday, Smith arrived from Arlington with hundreds of letters, packed in plastic bags and bags.

"We have gone and we" has been ignored. We went out and they ignored us. Let's see (legislators) try to ignore us when we leave them outside their office door, "said Smith, a senior at Wakefield High School." The lyrics are powerful. You can not ignore what someone says when you write. "

Smith said she was inspired by the strikes on March 14 and that her colleagues became more involved in the March for Our Lives event on March 24

." . I always thought that someone else would do something about things that are wrong in the world, you know? "Smith said." But then I realized, why do not I do it? Why can not that someone be me? So I did. "

While hundreds of students sat in silence for 19 minutes, one for every year since the Columbine shooting, Smith filled the silence by reading the names of the victims through a megaphone.

we stopped saying their names a long time ago, "he said." Then, until the end of this moment of silence, I will continue repeating their names so they do not forget them. "

Then the students plan to march to the Capitol for a demonstration and send letters to legislators calling for tougher arms control measures.

About 2,000 protesters were expected in front of the White House, according to a permit from the National Park Service presented by the National School Walkout DC, a group of students. [19659013] [ A masked shooter, a massacre on campus and a chase 159 years before Columbine.]

Hannah Weisman, 18, senior at Walt Whitm an High School in Bethesda, was one of the first students in the DC area to arrive on Friday morning along with her friends, Piper Deleon, 17 and Zoe Tompkins, 17, both seniors of Walt Whitman.

Although Whitman's three students said they expected Friday's march to be smaller than the strikes of March 14, in which hundreds of students marched in protest from the White House to the Capitol after 17 minutes of silence in honor of The 17 people killed in a school shooting in February in Parkland, Florida. They hoped that his message would still be heard.

All three were born a year or more after the attack at Columbine High School.

"It's scary because that was a long time ago, and we're here because nothing has changed," Deleon said. "I hope we talk, young people talk, they will make everyone else talk."

Weisman said that since the shooting in Parkland on February 14, he has been wondering if his school might be next. [19659020] "My paranoia has really increased," he said. "We have received bomb threats, we are doing these active shooter exercises, but now it feels much more real, it could happen here."

The girls chose to give up the signs this time because they felt that the mood was bleaker that last month's strikes, which they described as a protest. On Friday, they were present to honor the murdered.

Friday's strike marks the latest demonstration in a wave of activism led by students after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida more than two months ago.

As with a 17-minute strike that took place on March 14, the school districts have attempted to strike a balance between giving students space to exercise freedom of speech and not interrupt learning or risk safety.

In Arlington County, students who leave the class on Friday without written parental permission will receive an unexcused absence. School officials in Fairfax County are encouraging principals to work with students to find opportunities to express their opinions in a way that does not interfere with instruction, such as before or after school or during lunch.

For some teenagers, protesting in school is not enough.

Megan Black, an 18-year-old at Patriot High School in Prince William County, plans to leave school with classmates who have passes signed by their parents.

"If the country people are taking action, I want to be part of that," he said. "I would not feel good sitting in school all day while people my age go out protesting and working for a change."

School officials in Montgomery County said they heard little about retreat plans for Friday, after the March 14 protest around 2,500 students off campus. They said their position remains the same: that they encourage students to express their views, but can not guarantee their safety if they are out of school. Students who leave the campus are marked as not excused.

But Brenna Levitan, a 17-year-old student at Montgomery Blair High School, said she plans to participate in the rally.

For Levitan, who leads a group of students advocating more stringent gun control laws, armed violence is personal. She said she is a guardian of children who have fled violence in other countries, but who fear shooting at their schools in the United States. UU One of her friends, she said, tried to commit suicide with an illegally obtained weapon.

"The problem is much more than simple shootings in schools," he said. "In combating this, we must take into account all aspects of armed violence."

Officials from the DC Public Schools said they know the students who plan to participate in the strike.

The school system sent a letter to parents. and students who express support for the right of students to protest, but such absences will be counted as unexcused.

Other students will have a hard time leaving. Some schools are administering national standardized tests this week, and administrators said that students leaving at noon could compromise the test.

At Thurgood Marshall Academy, a charter school in southeastern Washington, students will not participate in the strike, according to Richard Pohlman, the school's executive director. The school was placed in the spotlight this year when Stoneman Douglas students visited the campus to meet their DC counterparts, many of whom regularly encounter armed violence in their communities.

One of the school's students, Zion Kelly, spoke in March for our March of Our Lives about his twin brother, Zaire, who died in a robbery when he returned home from school in September.

"Leaving the evidence will not be an option, since it would create a violation of the security of the evidence" Pohlman wrote in an email. "In the face of these challenges, we supported the students at the beginning of the year in planning the strike activities when they were announced."

While the students are preparing for the demonstrations, the adolescents who attend high school in the middle of the day have a day scheduled outside of the classroom. Columbine High does not offer classes on the anniversary of the 1999 shooting, a practice that began a year after the assault, in which two teenagers killed 13 people before killing themselves. The students will instead dedicate the day to community service activities such as volunteering in soup kitchens, participating in the cleaning of the park and reading to the preschoolers.

Scott Christy, principal of Columbine, and Frank DeAngelis, the principal at the time of the shooting, wrote a letter urging students from other high schools in the county to do the same instead of participating in a strike.

"April has been a time to respectfully remember our loss, and also support efforts to make our communities a better place," the letter read. "Consider planning service projects, an activity that will somehow build your school … unlike a strike."

Rachel Hill, sophomore at Columbine, said that the directors' letter was written with the participation of community members. Columbine students have tried to turn the day into something meaningful by dedicating time to service. Hill said he does not believe that Columbine's point of view was taken into account when planning the national strike.

"We feel that doing anything on that day is disrespectful to the families of the people who died," he said. "There is a time to protest, but it is not that day."

Sam Craig, a second-year student at nearby Chatfield Senior High School who organized a strike involving three schools, including Columbine, earlier this year, said students from Jefferson County, Colorado.

Instead, he said, they prefer to use the day to remember.

"It's a really raw and emotional day," Craig said. "It's a very difficult day for our entire community." . . . We want to respect Columbine. "

Laura Kirk has never known a pre-Columbian world Born a year after the shooting at Colorado high school, lock-up drills have been a regular part of her school experience. after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, she was shocked that not everyone in her class could get into a closet if a gunman stormed her school.

"Before I learned to read or write, I was learning how to sit in a dark classroom to make sure a shooter does not see us, "said Kirk, a third-year student at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County." It's rooted in who we are as a generation. "

Donna St. George, Perry Stein and Debbie Truong contributed to this report


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