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Walking out in solidarity: Local HS students join nationwide movement to honor Parkland victims

Prescott High School students will have the opportunity to join a student-run walkout on Wednesday, March 14 where PHS students will walk out of their classes to honor the 17 Stoneman Douglas High School students who were killed on Feb. 14.

High school students around the country are planning school walkouts that will be held on Wednesday, March 14 where students will walk out of their classes in support of the 17 Stoneman Douglas High School students who were killed on Feb. 14.

Though far away from where the Feb. 14 school shooting took place, local high school students have decided to join in on the national movement to honor the 17 victims and to stand in solidarity with their fellow U.S. high school students who want to ensure the safety of their schools.

Two Ellsworth High School students, junior Emma Gutting and senior Hannah Kowalchyk, took the lead on planning their high school's walkout to make sure Ellsworth students have the chance to stand up for their rights.

"We've been talking about planning this since Parkland happened," Gutting said. "I know that a lot of the kids who survived the Parkland shooting have been calling for a national movement. We just really wanted to be a part of it even though we're far away from it."

Gutting met with Ellsworth High School's principal Mark Stoesz to get his approval for the walkout, and said that Stoesz, as a safety precaution, has requested students stay in the building and hold their walkout in the cafeteria.

"Students had stated they wanted to support the observed 17 minutes honoring the Florida victims. They also wanted to be respectful in the process, and together we developed a plan and location where students could go if participating that would not be disruptive to our school day and would keep our students safe," Stoesz said. "We will be working with the students involved the next few days to finalize this process."

Neither Gutting nor Kowalchyk are on Ellsworth's student council, but felt it was their duty to take the initiative in organizing the walkout.

"We just felt that since nobody else in our school seemed to be starting anything that it was almost our responsibility to do something," Gutting said. "We wanted to get it started and if anyone wanted to join us — students, teachers or anyone — that would be great."

Gutting said the planned walkout has received support from other classmates so far, and that there was a formal meeting Monday, March 12 for those who plan to take part in the event. Everyone wishing to walk out of their classrooms on Wednesday, March 14 will be required to sign a list that will be distributed to EHS faculty members so that they know who may be absent from their classrooms from 10-10:17 a.m. on Wednesday.

"There are a lot of people in the media and other social platforms who think of my generation and the kids who are in high school nowadays and they think that we aren't going to do anything, that we don't vote, and that we don't care about what's going on in politics," Gutting said. "They think we'd rather be on social media or on our phones, but we want to show them that we're a force to be reckoned with and that we are completely active in our politics, that we do our research, and that we're willing to stand up for what we believe in."

Gotting said the main purpose of the EHS walkout is to honor the memories of the Parkland victims and to make sure their lost lives don't blur into everyone's memories as just another school shooting.

"We want to make this different and also bring attention to some of the options our state and federal governments can use to make schools and the world a safer place," Gutting said. "Hopefully we see more change in our society."

According to Prescott High School principal Josh Fiege, Prescott students will also have the opportunity to take part in the national event.

"The Prescott High School students, led by student leadership from National Honor Society and Student Council, plan to lead a walkout of the building on March 14 for students who wish to show their support for all victims of the Stoneman Douglas shooting," Fiege said.

The PHS and EHS walkouts will take place concurrently with the national event, which is scheduled to run from 10-10:17 a.m. in honor of the 17 victims.

Three different national actions have been announced, including the Women's March Youth Empower walkout on March 14, March for Our Lives on March 24 and National School Walkout Day on April 20. The April 20 date falls on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting in Colorado in 1999.