by Leslie Layton
Students from two Chico high schools and Chico State will participate in the #Enough National School Walkout Wednesday to protest gun violence and to call for congressional action.
The Chico students say they want school campuses to be gun-free zones, they want more background checks at the time of purchases and they want bans on the sale of assault rifles.
“We’re trying to create awareness about gun violence in America and how (gun violence here) compares to other countries,” said Lucinda Law, a 15-year-old Chico High School sophomore who is one of a half-dozen CHS students planning the school’s walkout. “Not much (legislation) has happened since Columbine and Sandy Hook.”
Memorials that last 17 minutes in memory of the 17 students and faculty members shot dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., one month ago, protests over the lack of gun reform, and events that are a mix of both, will be taking place in schools across the nation Wednesday. Empower, the youth branch of the national Women’s March organization, had counted 2,853 planned walkouts at the time this story was posted.
Evan Kerr, a high school senior, expects about 115 fellow students from the Inspire School of Arts & Sciences to participate. “We decided we wanted to do more than just walk out for 17 minutes,” Kerr said. “We’ll hold the plaza until the end of the school day and we’ll have a panel on gun reform.”
Kerr, working closely with Chico State second-year student Kailyn Erb and other local students, has planned activities at City Plaza including dance and musical performances, discussions about violence on campuses and question-and-answer sessions with candidates for local and state offices. The walkout will take place at 10 a.m. and the downtown plaza rally is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., according to the Chico State Walkout Facebook page.
Erb noted that the Chico Unified School District has said that its students who participate by walking out of class and leaving campus will be considered truant. At Chico State, students have found professors vary in their response.
Inspire’s Kerr said the walkout planners had found a lot of support and some opposition among students on campus. “The school has been really good in facilitating discussion on both sides,” Kerr said.
Erb launched the Chico State Walkout Facebook page late one night and by the next morning, 100 people had indicated interest in participating. “That’s not exactly what I expected to happen,” she said. “It blew up overnight.”
In a videotaped Q-and-A on the page, Kerr and Erb explain why they’re calling for gun reform. “Right now we’re seeing the effects of special-interest groups in our politics,” Erb says.
Leslie Layton is editor of ChicoSol.