Bellevue students plan gun control walkout, school board announces support

School districts nationwide are planning demonstrations March 14.

Students in Bellevue are planning to call attention to the nationwide gun control debate through planned walkouts on March 14.

Organized by the Bellevue High School Bending the Arc, social activism club, at 10 a.m. March 14, students from Bellevue High School will participate in a walkout “to protest Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

The Facebook event “Enough: National School Walkout, Bellevue High School,” states the demonstration will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

March 14 is the one month anniversary of the Feb. 14 mass shooting that took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in which students and teachers were shot and killed by a 19-year-old gunman with a military-style AR-15. Sixteen others were severely injured and the shooting was deemed the second most deadly school shooting, following Sandy Hook in which 20 children ages 6-7 years old were killed on Dec. 14, 2012 by a 20-year-old shooter.

The “Newport High School Walkout & Talkout!” will be held at the same time as Bellevue High School’s walkout and asserts their demonstration will be a “wake up call.”

“No matter where you stand on the gun control or mental health debate, or how you think action should be taken, if you see a problem, we urge you to join us and schools across the nation…” it states.

Bellevue School District spokeswoman Eileen Harrity confirmed other high schools in the district are planning similar rallies for the same time and day.

Their goals are to honor the lives lost and create a space where students can engage in discussion.

And the Bellevue School Board supports it.

The board passed a resolution Tuesday backing those students’ actions to gather peacefully and express their views as long as they complied with district policies.

In the resolution, school board members call upon the superintendent to “ensure that, in the event that students call for organized and peaceful demonstrations, schools provide safe spaces on campus for students to gather peacefully and express their views, regardless of viewpoint and without academic penalty, if such demonstrations otherwise comply with school district policies; and to ensure further, that students’ rights to not participate in such protests will also be respected.”

“Student safety and awareness are paramount concerns for the Bellevue School District,” Bellevue School District Superintendent Dr. Ivan Duran said. “We are grateful for the board’s leadership and call for more action at the state and federal levels to protect our students. As a district, we are committed to examining and updating our safety policies, plans, and funding structures in ways that will further protect our students, enhance communication, and keep all our campuses safe and secure.”

The board also requests action from the Washington state Legislature and U.S. Congress to enact laws to regulate access to firearms, fund physical improvements to schools to ensure they’re not easily accessed by those who are unauthorized, fund mental health support for students who may be at risk of harming others, and for these bodies of law to include the viewpoints of students, teachers and school leaders as they’re crafting future gun safety legislation.

The board recognizes that gun violence presents a “continuing danger to the education and safety of students, faculty and staff” as hundreds of lives have been taken through gun violence. And while the school district and board is committed to safety of all students and teachers, the board acknowledges that the teachers and staff should be focused on educating and not “be additionally burdened with the responsibility of carrying a firearm nor developing firearms training skills as part of their professional duties.”

For more information, read the school board’s resolution.