Students at over 2,500 schools around the country are planning to participate in a walkout in support of gun control on Wednesday.
In response to the February 14 Stoneman Douglas High School Shooting, students around the country are planning to participate in a walkout protest on Wednesday to bring awareness to recent demands for an assault weapon ban and other gun control measures.
The walkouts are scheduled to take place at 10:00 a.m. local time throughout the country and will last for 17 minutes to honor those that died in the Parkland school shooting.
The protest has already generated controversy, in part due to its ties with the Women’s March organization, which is currently facing criticisms for its ties to anti-semitic activist Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam.
Some schools have embraced the walkout protest. Schools in Henrico County, Virginia, will not punish students who participate. The school district even asked parents to sign a Google Document if they were willing to let their child participate.
Other school districts are threatening to punish students who participate. At Ingleside Middle School near Phoenix, Arizona, dozens of students were punished after participating in a similar walkout protest.
Layla Defibaugh, an eighth-grade student at Ingleside Middle School who skipped the walkout to avoid punishment, says that the district violated First Amendment rights when they punished her peers for participating.
“It’s important for me to speak my mind on this topic,” she said. “At the end of the day, they shouldn’t be able to punish us for exercising our First Amendment rights.”
“I think we all realize that for folks who are teenagers right now, this could well be a defining moment in their lives. We want to very much encourage and empower student voices. That said, it has to be done in ways that are safe and appropriate,” said spokesman Bob Mosier.
The walkouts have presented a controversial constitutional question: is skipping school protected by the First Amendment?