Across the country, thousands of students walked out of class today (April 20) at 10 a.m. local time to hold elected officials accountable for their inaction on gun violence.
According to the official website for #NationalSchoolWalkout, 2,600 schools—representing every state and the District of Columbia—participated in the protest. In their planning guide, organizers called on participants to hold voter registration drives, marches, speeches and a moment of reflection.
The #NationalSchoolWalkout took place 19 years after two armed students killed 13 people at Columbine High School. The Columbine shooting was the largest school shooting recorded in United States history—until this February, when an armed gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Since the 1999 Columbine shooting, many schools have adopted zero tolerance policies that mandate harsh discipline for students who are seen as violent, or who bring weapons or drugs to school. But these policies are applied disproportionately to Black students and students with disabilities, according to a recent report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
As Colorlines previously reported, youth advocates staged another walkout in March to condemn responses to gun violence that strengthen the school to prison pipeline, in which Black and Latinx students are punished at higher rates then their White peers and funneled through the juvenile justice system.
In the days leading up to today’s protest, young people of color released a petition that calls for gun reform and school safety measures that center racial justice. In the petition, which was signed by several social justice organizations including Advancement Project, American Federation of Teachers and Center for Popular Democracy, they wrote:
We have experienced gun violence throughout our lives, and one of the main perpetrators of this gun violence has been police. We have watched as our Black brothers, sisters and trans family have fallen victim to this system of institutionalized racism.
Our organizations have been fighting for years to ensure that schools in communities of color are nurturing, safe, inclusive and supportive places. Throughout history, Black and Brown communities have felt the harmful impact of investments that criminalize us. This has been particularly true in our schools since the Columbine tragedy, after which more than $1 billion were funneled from the federal government into criminalizing students in schools.
Below, some of the highlights that centered youth of color during the #NationalSchoolWalkout:
#Black & Brown students demand: ✅ Racial justice in their schools ✅ To be safe in their schools ✅ #CounselorsNotCops ✅ The end of racial policing & profiling And so much more! Agree? Sign the petition below ?https://t.co/pjTREAjR9p#YouthDemand#BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/SO1OVlkRu2— Popular Democracy (@popdemoc) April 19, 2018
Last month @JustinIBlackman was the only student to walk out at his school during the #NationalSchoolWalkout. Today he rallied his peers and is far from alone. Way to organize, Justin! ✊? pic.twitter.com/mKN3HonA8w— Advancement Project (@adv_project) April 20, 2018
Young people have always been at the forefront of change, & youth of color have long done the labor and helped push us forward. Today, students at over 2,500 schools will walk out to demand an end to gun violence. We stand with them to say #EnoughIsEnough. #NationalSchoolWalkout pic.twitter.com/dbCoQNUNNn— YWCA USA (@YWCAUSA) April 20, 2018
Students in Indianapolis, Indiana hold moment of silence in honor of those killed in Columbine mass school shooting 19 years ago today. https://t.co/3aibt03fs5 #NationalSchoolWalkout pic.twitter.com/stJtpBvYK9— ABC News (@ABC) April 20, 2018
Today as students walkout to demand the end to our gun violence epidemic, let’s uplift the life-long gun violence prevention work of @EricaFordNYC who’s the originator of the color orange to represent peace. ? Thanks Erica for your 30+ yrs of leadership!#NationalSchoolWalkout pic.twitter.com/lQVKEY87OR— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) April 20, 2018