Students at Salina South and Salina Central high schools plan a 17-minute walkout at 10 a.m. Wednesday in solidarity with the nationwide movement spearheaded by EMPOWER.

Wednesday will mark one month since a shooter walked inside a Florida high school and opened fire, killing 17 students, teachers and staff and injuring at least 14.

Students and educators across the country are planning to walk out of their schools and universities on Wednesday to honor the lives of the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to press lawmakers to pass stricter gun-control laws. EMPOWER is pushing specifically for a ban on assault weapons and universal background checks before gun sales.

“This is something that really affects us and it’s also a chance for us to raise direct awareness,” said Salina Central High School senior Carolyn Gutsch who helped plan her school’s walkout.

The Central High walkout, like others across the country, will last 17 minutes, one minute for each person killed in the Florida school shooting.

Students will walk out at 10 a.m. and gather on the lawn at the intersection of Front and Crawford streets. The plan is for 17 different people to speak.


Staff supportive

Gutsch said students had the full support of Central High staff and Principal Nate Showman.

“The plan is for the entire school to walk out at 10 a.m, not just students. Principal Showman made sure all staff was in support of this and that means a lot,” she said. “This is our opportunity to be heard and make a difference with something that really affects us and it’s great to have the support of the school.”

Showman applauded the students.

“We’re very excited that we have passionate students willing to step up for a cause they feel strongly about,” Showman said. “That’s why we wanted to work with them. They took the lead and it’s going to be great.”

Gutsch said students will also have support from parents, organizations and other community members.

“We’re grateful for a public dialogue that goes beyond just thoughts and prayers for the dead,” said David Norlin, a member of the organization Salina Resistance, which will support Central High students Wednesday.


Moment of silence

The South High student council and its sponsor, Nikki Chamberlain, also are organizing a walkout Wednesday.

At 10 a.m., those choosing to participate will exit South High and observe a moment of silence, said senior student council secretary Albanee Garcia.

Garcia said she and other members of the student council were approached by South High senior Asi Lou Mailau about organizing a walkout.

“You hear and read about all of the school shootings going on, but the one in Florida really touched me the most,” Garcia said. “There were seniors just months away from graduation who had full-ride scholarships and plans for their future who won’t be able to realize it. That could have easily been one of us.”

Garcia said she hopes all South High participants understand the meaning behind the walkout.

“This is not about being out of school for 17 minutes,” she said. “It’s about remembering the lives that were lost first and foremost.”


Walkout possible?

Ell-Saline Junior-Senior High School Principal Doug Wilson and Southeast of Saline Junior-Senior High School Principal Roger Stumpf said they were unaware of any plans for walkouts at their schools.

“There is nothing planned at this point. That doesn’t mean they may not try to organize something last-minute in support of their peers,” Stumpf said.

Neither principal mentioned any disciplinary action for students walking out of class.