Students around the state are gearing up for what is expected to be one of the largest youth-led movements pushing for stricter gun regulations.
On Wednesday — weather permitting — kids from at least 150 Massachusetts schools said they planned to take part in the #Enough: National School Walkout organized by the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER. The event will take place exactly one month after a mass shooter opened fire at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
(Numerous school districts around the state have cancelled classes Wednesday, following the latest nor'easter, so the number of walkout participants here may change.)
On a national level, the #Enough movement has a common thread. Students will walk out of class at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes, one minute for every person who was killed in the Parkland school shooting. On a local level though, student groups and schools have a variety of additional events planned, including assemblies and in-class discussions.
School district officials in both Boston and Worcester announced Tuesday evening that safety concerns around storm cleanup would force public schools to close Wednesday. Boston Public Schools had initially planned for individual schools to host their own on-campus activities related to the #Enough movement. And, in Worcester, the student walk out at 10 a.m. was to be part of a district-coordinated event.
Mayor Marty Walsh addressed in a press conference Tuesday how school closures would halt Boston students' plans to take part in the walkout, but he said he expects many high-schoolers to join other students in lobbying State House legislators Wednesday morning.
"These are high school kids, and public transportation will be working tomorrow — many of them take public transportation anyway when they go to school, so they're familiar with the system," Walsh told reporters. "... I don't think the crowd will probably be as big as it would have been, but certainly, again, I support the kids."
Officials with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education are not issuing statewide guidance on how schools should handle student activism or potential absences due to Wednesday’s events, but in a written statement, acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson said he’s confident superintendents and principals will handle the issue sensitively.
"If this is not what we call a teachable moment, I don't know what is," he said. "And I hope our educators take advantage of this opportunity to help model and teach their students about how we bring about change peacefully in a democracy."
"We want to make a difference. We don’t want the rest of our time that we’re in school and all the generations to come to have to do active shooter drills or have to worry about their school being shot up."Amalia Hochman, Somerville student and activist
Students gathering at Beacon Hill will be taking part in a student-led march and rally at the State House that is set to begin at 11 a.m., following the scheduled school walkouts across the U.S. Attending students will meet at Boston Common to hear speeches and receive advocacy training. They'll eventually make their way into the State House to speak with lawmakers.
“We want to make a difference," said Amalia Hochman, a 17-year-old Somerville High School student and organizer with the group Students Against Gun Violence. "We don’t want the rest of our time that we’re in school and all the generations to come to have to do active shooter drills or have to worry about their school being shot up.”
Hochman said the goal is to push state lawmakers to pass regulations like the Extreme Risk Protective Order, or House bill 3610, which would allow family members or police to take a gun away from someone deemed to pose a risk to themselves or others. The bills are controversial, with some guns rights activists saying they fear the bills will unfairly prevent people with temporary mental health issues from ever owning firearms.
“We think if we can get that in Massachusetts then we can hopefully spread across the country,” said Hochman.
So far more than 2,000 events across the country are registered to take place as part of the #Enough: National School Walkout. The next national day of action is scheduled for March 24.