Students across nation say they will be walking out of class Wednesday in response to elected officials' failure to address gun violence

INDEPENDENT FILE PHOTO - While school walkouts are rare, Wednesday's planned walkout isn't the first for Woodburn High School. Pictured are students who walked out in May 2016, protesting discrimination,particularly toward immigrants.Students at Woodburn High School are among the many Oregon youths who say they will be walking out of class Wednesday in response to elected officials' failure to address gun violence.

A coordinated walkout is planned across more than 2,500 schools nationally so far, including many Portland, Salem and Eugene schools.

One of the primary organizers of the Woodburn walkout is Juan Arriaga, who said the local event is in solidarity with the initiative to call for comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation.

"We are marching because we believe that the government needs to place restrictions on guns," Arriaga said. "We are marching in solidarity with the victims of the Florida shooting. We are spreading the message that we need to act now BEFORE a Sandy Hook or a Columbine happens at Woodburn High School or any Woodburn school."

March 14 will mark one month since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 14 students and three staff members. Many others were wounded in the shooting.

Women's March Youth Empower is calling on students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a 17-minute walkout in honor of the 17 lives taken.

The 10 a.m. walkout across every time zone on March 14 is meant to protest "Congress' inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers" in response to the gun violence plaguing schools and neighborhoods.

In demanding Congress pass legislation to protect students, they point out that many of those high school students walking out will vote this November, and many others will cast their ballots in 2020.

Students at North Marion High School are also planning a walkout at 10 a.m., but, according to Principal De Ann Jenness, it will not expand into a march.

Gervais High School's Associated Student Body is honoring the victims but not doing so in the form of a walkout, since the national event has become politicized, according to Principal Ken Stott. Instead, ASB is encouraging students to wear maroon (the color of Douglas High School) or black for mourning, and maroon ribbons will be passed out. There will be a moment of silence around 10 a.m. for the victims, Stott said.

The Woodburn event will begin around 10 a.m., with 17 minutes of silence, followed by a march to City Hall where students will hear a few words of encouragement from House District 22 Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon. There, students will also have the opportunity to share concerns over how guns are being handled and misused in the community. The marchers will then go to the school district office, where they will talk about safety in schools. The group will march back to the school, where closing words will wrapup the walkout event around 1:30 p.m.

Arriaga said the absences will be excused with parental permission, but also that the staff and school administration has been positive about the movement.

"Some teachers who have the free time are planning on standing with us during the 17 minutes," he pointed out. "They support us along with the principals. They see this movement as a positive thing, that our generation is gathering together to voice our worries over gun violence. We are not being silenced."

Ray Rendleman contributed to this story.

This story has been updated to reflect what other schools in northern Marion County are planning on March 14, as well as more details regarding Woodburn High School students' plans (latest update at 5 p.m. March 13).

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