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Central Ohio High Schoolers Prepare For National Walkouts

Nick Evans
Zaida Jenkins (left) and Jackson Schiefelbein (right) are organizing the walkout at Olentangy Orange High.

Students in Ohio are getting ready to walk out of their classes on Wednesday to honor the students and teachers killed in Parkland, Florida. The protest is part of a nationwide push for stricter gun laws.

At Olentangy Orange High School, just north of Columbus, students spent a few hours after class on Tuesday making signs for the demonstration.

“Some of their signs include messages to the NRA, some are less political they’re more about gun violence in general or simply just honoring the victims," said Jackson Schiefelbein, one of the student organizers leading the walkout.

Fellow organizer Zaida Jenkins believes students have gotten the attention of lawmakers—but those officials have a lot to answer for.

“I do think that they are listening,” Jenkins says. "But I think it took until this point for them to listen. I think that’s personally unacceptable.”

Students in schools all over the country plan to walk out at 10 a.m. The national initiative, which is backed by the Women’s March, calls for legislation including universal background checks and a ban on automatic weapons and high capacity magazines.

Almost 3,000 student groups across the country have registered for Wednesday's walkout on the Women's March website, including 23 in and around Columbus.   

But the Orange High organizers want to make sure their work yields results, so Schiefelbein says they’re working on a voter registration drive and a debate clinic with the school’s Model United Nations club.

“We were going to make it a competition with the other high schools in our school district that are participating in the walk outs to see who can get the most people registered,” Schiefelbein says.

Schiefelbein and Jenkins say school administrators have kept the demonstration at arms length—refusing to either condemn or condone the gathering. Administrators at many other local schools have followed a similar tack.

But in the West Liberty-Salem School District, superintendent Kraig Hissong is promising disciplinary action in line with an unexcused absence, and he warns the punishment could rise if students are disruptive.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.