Courtesy of @attorneygriggs

Student Walkout Planned Wednesday Against Gun Violence

Atlanta Students Receive Training Tonight About Their Right To Protest

Maria Boynton
March 12, 2018 - 9:17 pm
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Nationwide Wednesday, students are expected to walk out of their classrooms. It'll be a memorial as-well-as a protest action. It's in memory of the 17 lives lost in the February 14 shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The walkout is scheduled to last 17 minutes, beginning at 10 a.m. in every time zone. The action is also aimed at lawmakers, in an effort to push them to pass stricter gun control laws. An AK-15-style rifle is what a 19-year-old former student used to kill students and school staff members.

In metro Atlanta, thousands of students are expected to participate in what is becoming known as National Student Walkout Day. The Clayton, DeKalb, Fulton, and Henry County school districts will allow students to participate. APS Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen has stated that while the district will support students that participate in the walkout, she also cautions that students participating in non-sanctioned demonstrations will be punished. 

But, Cobb, Gwinnett, Douglas, Cherokee, Fayette, and Paulding are among metro school districts that are not condoning students walking out.

Clare Schexnyder is a Decatur mother, who describes herself as an "instigator" of Wednesday's walk out. She is the founder of StopSchoolShootingsNow.com and says the group of moms has organized 2500 walkouts nationwide so far. "I didn't do it all by myself", says Schexnyder, "we're coordinating with the Women's March Youth Empower Movement". She says it's a huge nation-wide effort. "I'm really proud of these kids for standing up and wanting to walk out, en masse." She believes, "it'll send a message that this has got to stop. That our kids being slaughtered in their classrooms is not acceptable in this country." And, "with one voice", Schexnyder says, "we can really create change."

On the day of the protest, Schexnyder says she will be in the Decatur town square at 10 a.m. with other parents and allies. She says they will mark 17 minutes for the victims of gun violence and especially for the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. They will be at the Georgia Capitol at noon, where students are scheduled to meet with state lawmakers to talk about gun violence.

Meanwhile, a group of Atlanta attorneys has come together to offer training to students planning to participate in Wednesday's walkout. "We're trying to help these students, who want to exercise their First Amendment right, to stay safe on Wednesday when they walk out for their lives on gun reform and gun control", said Attorney Tiffany Roberts. 

During a training session Sunday night at the Georgia State University School of Law, attorneys told those gathered that everyone has to make their own decision about what to do, and "everyone's gonna be facing consequences and those consequences are going to be different based on your disciplinary record, based on what job you want to get after school", advised Attorney Jeff Filipovits. He added, "there's plenty of other ways for you to exercise your rights and to speak out on this issue. The fact that someone doesn't want to get up and walk out, please don't hold that against them. Please don't feel pressure that you have to do this." Filipovits went on to warn students that "the school can constitutionally punish you for getting up and walking out."

The attorneys also used various scenarios about how to/or not react when/if confronted by school officials on Wednesday.

Another session of the Student Walkout March Volunteer Training is scheduled at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Oakhurst Presbyterian Church, located at 118 2nd Ave. NE, in Decatur.

Jonesboro High School senior Quincy Jean-Louis said he attended last night's training "because I believe in this cause. I want gun reform in this state, in the country."  The 18-year-old Jean-Louis also says he attended to learn more so he'll be able to "create some buzz" about the walkout at his school and in Clayton County in-general.

"We are dealing with students that are so courageous", said volunteer Lawyer Nora Benavidez, "we need them to feel like we're here to support them, which we are." According to Benavidez, students need to be aware of how schools are reacting, adding that while there are school administrators that have promoted and celebrated that the students will exercise their First Amendment right to walk out, on the other side, she adds, "there are others that have already threatened students, made them feel like they can not exercise that right, and that if they do, they will be punished more than they should have for simply missing class."

Outside the courtroom, where the training was taking place, Filipovits said it's important that students get involved in politics and civil rights. "The voice of students has been missing until now", said Filipovits, who, in looking back on the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999, called it "a shocking event, that really changed the culture around (my) school." Referencing how the times have changed since a dozen people were murdered at the Colorado school shooting carried out by two senior students, Filipovits said, "18-year-olds are smart, if you talk to them, they're thoughtful and they haven't been involved and now we've got the Internet, we've got ways for them to connect  and we've got ways for their voices to be heard that weren't there before, and I think we need to welcome their voice because they can vote and they're a voice that's been missing from our dialogue."

Attorney Mawuli Davis addresses those attending Walkout Training at Georgia State College of Law Sunday (Photo Credits: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)

Volunteer attorneys (l-r) Jeff Filipovits, Tiffany Roberts, Mawuli Davis at training. (Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)

Jonesboro High student Quincy Jean-Louis (l) and Attorney Nora Benavidez (r) at training. (Photo Credit: Maria Boynton/Entercom Atlanta)