Local schools to participate in

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, local students will be joining others across the nation on Wednesday, who have planned to stage walkouts to protest gun violence. The protest is centered around the Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Although local schools will not necessarily be walking out in protest, they will be participating in recognition of the tragedy in Florida, as well as in honor of those who lost their lives on that day.

According to the Associated Press the organizers said there are nearly 3,000 walkouts set and it is the biggest demonstration of student activism since the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

Among the students protesting on Wednesday will be Pittsburg High School, hosted by the student group, Equality Club.

Students from the Equality Club brought the idea to have a peaceful protest to high school administrators, PHS Principal Phil Bressler said. He said they do not wish to violate school policies.

“It is important to us,” he said. “We believe the students’ voice is important … we want to support these kids, they have that right to peacefully assemble and protest. We are going to help them support that effort.”

PHS students will have their event in the school’s courtyard. Any high school student may join the event and there will be no disciplinary action taken for students who go attend, because it is considered a school group event, the district said.

Bressler said there is a learning opportunity for all students. There will be those who will go, and those who will not, he said, and they will learn people across the country have different beliefs about school safety.

Frontenac High School Principal Mike Copple said the school will have guest speakers at 10 a.m. at the school from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department and Frontenac Police Department, who will come in to promote safety in schools.

“Our idea is to educate students and have them better prepared if anything were to happen,” he said.

Girard High School will also have a presentation at 10 a.m., but the high school will be focusing on sharing “positive messages” and “reaching out for help,” Girard High School Principal Todd Ferguson said. He said after talking to student ambassadors and administrators, it was decided to focus on the positive.

“We felt like this would be a more productive way,” he said. “They can’t say we care about gun safety and ‘now leave the building.’”

He said student leaders will make presentations on the protests across the nation and will have a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“It is important that the kids have a voice, but is also important to do it in a productive way and do something that matters more,” Ferguson said.

St. Mary’s Colgan Catholic Schools will not be participating in the walkout tomorrow, however, at 10 a.m., the students and staff of St. Mary’s Junior High and St. Mary’s Colgan High School will participate in an in-class brief prayer vigil honoring the 17 victims of the Florida school shooting.

The national walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March. The group urged students to leave class at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim in the Florida shooting, AP said.

According to the Associated Press, the organizers offered students a “list of demands” for lawmakers — including a ban on assault weapons and mandatory background checks for all gun sales.

School administrators from across the nation have drawn mixed reactions, according to the Associated Press. Some administrators applauded students for “taking a stand” and others “threatened discipline.”