Oak Park River Forest High School students and those at Percy Julian and Gwendolyn Brooks middle schools are joining a national movement today at noon, with planned walkouts to protest gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

OPRF communications director Karin Sullivan confirmed that students informed the school’s administration today about the walkout.

Sullivan shared a letter sent to faculty noting that board policies “preclude all district employees from supporting or promoting the student effort.”

“That said, our goal is not to stop students from walking out,” Principal Nathaniel Rouse said in the letter to teachers. “Our goal is to ensure that they are kept safe in the process.”

Sullivan said students have not informed OPRF administration where the walkout will begin or end.

Oak Park Police Department Commander LaDon Reynolds said in a telephone interview that OPRF administration contacted police today to inform them of the walkout.

“We don’t know to what extent this is organized,” Reynolds said. “We will be on hand to assist them as needed.”

The letter also notes that “faculty and staff have been instructed to allow students to exit peacefully if they choose to join the protest. Administrators and security staff will be monitoring the hallways, exits, and the outside of the campus to ensure that students remain safe and orderly.”

District 97 spokesman Chris Jasculca said in an email that “some students may engage in a walkout today in memory of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, as well as to bring attention and awareness to the issue of gun violence.”

“From what we have heard, students are planning to leave their classrooms and the lunchroom and stand in the hallways or other common areas for 17 minutes in honor of each of the victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” Jasculca said. “The staff at both middle schools are planning to allow students to participate in this demonstration as a way of letting their voices be heard on this important issue.

“We will have staff members stationed in the hallways and other common areas during this time period to ensure that the students who wish to engage in this activity have the time, space and opportunity to do so, while also making sure that it does not create safety issues or disrupt the learning and instruction for those who choose not to participate.”

The protests come a week after 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz killed 17 teenagers and staff members, and injured dozens of others, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

The Feb. 21 demonstration is the first in a series of national student-led protests planned to take place in the next few months.

Wednesday’s walkout in Oak Park will take place simultaneously with walkouts planned at schools across Broward County, where Marjory Stoneman is located, and throughout the country.

Two other national walkouts are planned for March 14 and April 20, both at 10 a.m., according to a group formed on social media after the shooting called Student Walkouts to End Gun Violence.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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