Student walkouts planned for Oak Park River Forest High School, area middle schools

Students march against gun violence in nationwide demonstration

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TIMOTHY INKLEBARGER and MICHAEL ROMAIN

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

Reader Comments

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Richard Fischer from OP  

Posted: February 22nd, 2018 12:31 PM

I think these marches basically help the marchers feel like they're doing something but it's been 18 years since Columbine and it doesn't seem like anything is helping to rectify the problem. I'm saying that replacing our government officials that have done nothing to try to stop this is what needs to be done and these marchers would probably accomplish more if they focused their abundant social media skills on replacing them. Even now they're warning the politicians that if they fail to act they'll be voted out. They've failed for over 18 years - they should be replaced and not warned.

James Hall  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 4:07 PM

Good times! I used to love skipping school.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 2:37 PM

FWIW, there is a Karla Gabor listed on LinkedIn, a corrections officer in Wisconsin. As for Mr. Fischer opining that teens marching will accomplish nothing, we'll soon find out, won't we. My experience is that anytime huge numbers of people stand up and voice their opinions, change is fomented.

Richard Fischer from OP  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 2:27 PM

I think all these marches accomplish nothing. I would think instead of marching people should flood the various social media with the message to vote out all politicians currently in office since they have done NOTHING to remedy the gun problem in this country and vote in new representation. How is it possible that 18 and 19 year old's can purchase M16's and why are 'bump stocks' legal? Get on social media and replace our stagnant and useless representatives and senators that have done nothing and get some politicians that will actually represent their constituents. 3 years and over 300 school shootings with nothing done by the government is disgusting.

Al Rossell  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 2:27 PM

I think this is fine. Perhaps their generation can produce the change where we have all failed. They are the future voters and the politicians would be wise to take note. As far as them being "entitled", maybe so but you cannot dispute being entitled to a safe environment with laws and penalties that make sense. It is about time the politicians get some common sense and perhaps some guts. If not, I believe they will pay the price when these kids can vote.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 2:20 PM

I fully support the right of the students to peacefully organize. Even if one doesn't agree with them (I do by the way), to criticize one for being passionate about a cause as righteous as school shooting is ignorant at best. Unfortunately, we probably won't see any measurable changes until the kids who grew up with Colombine, Sandy Hook and Parkland are in power.

Leslie Sutphen from Oak Park  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 1:45 PM

Klara Gabor. No Facebook profile. Hmmm I'm thinking you are yet another incarnation of our fake poster just posting to cause trouble. Kak dela?

Mike Hanline  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 1:01 PM

You tell 'em, Klara! Monthly school shootings aren't the problem, it's "entitled" teenagers exercising their First Amendment rights in protest thereof!

Lee Balgemann from Westchester  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 12:44 PM

Wouldn't it be nice if the ADULTS (teachers and "district employees") could join the students in their grief and call to action FROM adults?

Jason Cohen  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 12:38 PM

Klara, if our children are entitled it should only be that they are entitled to feel safe in our schools. I am proud that they joined others schools in this country to stand up against our ridiculous gun laws. The blame should be placed on our politicians for doing nothing not on these kids for wanting change.

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 12:31 PM

Fyi, for anyone who cares about the integrity, such as it is, of social media. From NPR: https://www.npr.org/2018/02/20/587375771/russian-bots-are-spreading-false-information-after-the-florida-shooting

Bill Dwyer  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 12:23 PM

So, young people cannot respond to the callous butchering of 14 fellow students in their classroom by a high powered assault rifle, Klara. Where you from, "Ms. Gabor"? Oak Park? Or St. Petersburg?

Deborah Risteen Mercer  

Posted: February 21st, 2018 11:57 AM

Freedom of speech, Klara Gabor.

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