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Local students plan to participate in national walkout Wednesday to protest gun violence

Lydia Ringer, 16, a junior at Roosevelt High School in Seattle, holds a sign that reads "NRA - Not Right for America," Tuesday, March 6, 2018, as she attends a rally against gun violence at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash. The rally was held on the same day Gov. Inslee was scheduled to sign a bill banning the sale and possession of gun bump stocks in the state of Washington. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Thousands of students in the Portland metro area plan on either walking out of class or holding a moment of silence Wednesday morning to protest gun violence.

The event commemorates the 1-month mark since 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Walkouts will include students as young as elementary school through college-aged individuals.

The coordinated walkout was organized by Empower, the youth wing of the Women's March, which brought thousands to Washington, D.C., last year. 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.

Portland Public Schools officials say students who choose to participate will not be punished, but they'll receive an unexcused absence if they leave school grounds. Guidelines set by the district:

• Students are welcome to walk out, they will not be punished
• Students will receive an unexcused absence if they leave school property
• Schools are encouraged to hold visible all-school activities, but cannot lead a march off-campus
• Provisions are in place for students and staff who choose not to participate

Beaverton Public Schools officials told KATU News they support students' First Amendment rights, but that students who go off-campus may receive unexcused absences. Guidelines set by the district:

• Attendance will be taken before and after walk-out
• Students are encouraged to remain on-campus, staff will not follow students off premises
• Teachers & staff may not participate, except to provide supervision
• No school supplies may be used to produce signs or flyers

Salem-Keizer School District sent a recorded phone message Sunday to parents from Superintendent Christy Perry.

"I want to be very clear, these events are not being planned by our staff," Perry said in part, "but we are committed first and foremost to the safety of our children, and should a student participate then we will supervise them."

Guidelines set by the district:

• Walk-outs are not planned by staff
• Safe spaces will be provided to students who participate/ do not participate in event
• Attendance will be taken before and after event
• If students leave campus or do not return to class, absences will be unexcused

Silverton High School students plan to walkout, and have been told they will be disciplined for leaving class.

Other districts where walkouts and demonstrations are planned, (list may not include every district):

  • Tigard-Tualatin School District
  • Gresham-Barlow School District
  • Reynolds School District
  • David Douglas School District
  • Hillsboro School District
  • Dallas School District
  • Hood River School District
  • Lincoln County School District
  • Vancouver School District
  • Evergreen School District

Walkouts are also planned at the University of Oregon and Portland State University.

"For years adults have been telling kids that they can be the change that they want to see," Tigard High School sophomore Meghan Turley told KATU about the planned student-organized walkout. "I think a lot of kids and teenagers across the country are realizing that this is their time to be the change that they have been told they can be."

Parents, grandparents and guardians want to make sure students who choose to participate or not are safe.

"I think demonstrating is a good idea," Nancy Lieuallen said. "I think it is for the right reasons and as long as it is, as (my grandson) has pointed out to me, as long as it doesn't take too much time out of class work because I value that a lot too."

Districts say they are working with school resource officers and area police agencies to ensure students are safe, responsible and respectful.

KATU News will cover this event with a special digital newscast starting at 10 a.m. Wednesday. Watch it on KATU.com or our Facebook page.

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