Juneau high school activists plan school safety walkouts in solidarity with national protest

Juneau high schoolers will join students across the country by walking out of class Wednesday to protest inaction on gun violence in schools.

Students from Juneau-Douglas and Thunder Mountain high schools worked together to plan separate but related events for the one month anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

At Juneau-Douglas, students will walk out at 10 a.m. and march to the state Capitol, where there will be speakers and a protest.

Thunder Mountain students will walk out at 10 a.m. and remain outside the school for 17 minutes to commemorate the 17 people killed.

“It’s not just a Thunder Mountain High School walkout or a Juneau-Douglas High School walkout,” said Kathy Tran, a senior and the student body president at Thunder Mountain.  She appeared Monday on KTOO’s “A Juneau Afternoon” with other student organizers. “We’ve unified and said, ‘We’re walking out together and making our voices be heard.’”

Tran reached out to students at Juneau-Douglas after some of her peers asked her to plan something in solidarity with the national call for students to speak out about gun violence.

Following the tragedy in Florida, students who survived the shooting organized and called on President Donald Trump, state legislators and national lawmakers to do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

Those students plan to march March 24 with other gun reform advocates in Washington, D.C.

The organizers of the Juneau walkouts say they are not advocating for any specific political platform.

Instead, they are calling out the inaction that has allowed school shootings to persist in the U.S.  

Juneau-Douglas senior Theo Houck said the school culture needs to change.

“We have been having active shooter drills in our schools that create this atmosphere of terror on a regular basis knowing that this is a reality for us, that somebody at any moment could come in with a gun and end the lives of your peers and your own life,” Houck said. “It is not something that should be seen as normal or OK.”

It’s disruptive, mentally and educationally, Houck said.

The students encourage adults to participate. At both events, the youths ask that adults stand behind students so they remain the focus.

It’s time for youth activists to make their voices heard in the national conversation about school safety, Houck said.

“That culture of fear needs to end and this is our way of standing up and saying that we are going to make that change and we need to see that change happen.”

The Juneau School District said it supports students’ right to protest and will not discipline students who choose to walk out Wednesday. However, classes will continue as normal and normal consequences will apply for unexcused absences.

Theo Houck occasionally works for 360 North.

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