At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Encina Preparatory High School 10th grader Angelique Gauthier won’t be in class. She’ll be meeting her friends in the quad, but not for recess: They’re walking out of school to mark the one-month anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
She and her classmates say they will remain out of class for 17 minutes — to honor the shooting’s 17 victims.
“I come to school so I can graduate, go to college,” Gauthier said. “I don’t want to think about having to come to school and it be my last day alive.”
The students at Encina will join elementary, high school and college students across the Sacramento region and throughout the country participating in a national school walkout protest of gun violence.
Encina also will be teaching about the history of walkouts on Wednesday. Other schools are holding student-led assemblies. Administrators are encouraging students to stay on campus, and some officials are organizing safe meeting spaces.
Eric Katsumi Holloway is a junior at Encina, and he said the killings in Parkland, Florida, forced him to consider the reality that a shooting could happen at his school.
“It is something I think about quite often, actually,” he said. “I just try to be wary, try to look at people and try to understand what they are going through so I can help in any way, so people can get the help they need so they don't anything rash."
Most regional schools said they won’t penalize students if they attend an approved assembly, but if they do leave campus they’ll be marked with an unexcused absence.
Adults also will be participating in the walkout. More than 2,000 people wrote on Facebook that they would attend a rally on the Capitol Mall, which will congregate in front of a building that houses the local National Rifle Association offices.
Politicians will be making appearances at the walkouts, as well. Attorney General Xavier Becerra is scheduled to join students at McClatchy High School. Mayor Darrell Steinberg announced that he will be at Hiram Johnson High School in South Sacramento.
The Sacramento City Unified School District is preparing for walkouts at several schools, including all 12 of its high schools. Spokesman Alex Barrios says the district has been working with principals to allow students to demonstrate or show solidarity with victims in Florida.
"Our district is encouraging our students to express their freedom of speech on campus,” he said. “We've made that very accessible by supporting the students with whatever space on campuses they need to conduct whatever activities they choose.”
According to Barrios, students and administrators have also been working together. "We reached out early and encouraged them to work with us to identify activities on campus. At this time, I'm not aware of any major student efforts to leave campus," Barrios said.
Student Angelique Gauthier hopes this protest, the first of three scheduled during the next two months, will increase awareness. “I want people to know that youth have a voice and we do want to use it,” she said.
“I want them to know that we do care and we want to use our voices to speak out.”
Learn more about Encina Preparatory High School’s exhibit at The California Museum.
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