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Central Ohio Students Prepare For Third School Walkout

Nick Evans, WOSU News
Students speaking at the Upper Arlington High School protest in February.

Students at about a dozen Central Ohio schools plan to stage another walkout on Friday morning, calling for gun reform and commemorating the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.

On April 20, 1999, a mass shooting at Columbine High School left 15 people dead and 24 injured. Student activists across the country—newly motivated by February's attack in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people— will mark the occasion by again pressing for stricter gun legislation.

Unlike previous protests, this one will begin at 10 a.m. and last through the end of the day. In addition to the walkout, students are planning to protest Friday evening at the Ohio Statehouse.

Students staged demonstrations in the immediate aftermath of the Parkland massacre, before organizing a nationwide, coordinated walkout one month after the shooting. At Upper Arlington High School, administrators and even organizers themselves seemed surprised with the turnout at that first event. 

When it came to the second protest, a month later, students spent weeks planning and organizing moments of silence, speeches and marches. Many schools in Central Ohio participated—some with the blessing of administrators and some without.

This time around, however, students haven't universally secured the approval of administrators. Activists at Westerville South and Central High Schools were denied permission to walkout, and will be holding voter registration drives instead. Students at Westerville North are allowed to protest if their parents sign them out of class.

And at Upper Arlington High School, participants in the walkout will receive a lunch detention for every class they miss.

Their activism hasn’t been completely ignored by lawmakers. Gov. John Kasich called for new gun control restrictions, and both Democrats and Republicans introduced bills in the Ohio General Assembly ranging from "red flag" restrictions and bump stock bans to "Stand Your Ground." None have gotten very far, although the Ohio House passed a bill to bolster school security.

Congress, meanwhile, has refused to take up the broad nationwide reforms activists have demanded.


At least 11 schools in the Columbus area planned walkouts for April 20:

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.