Seattle students who are organizing a citywide rally in support of gun reform are not alone in their quest for change.
The Seattle Public Schools Board of Directors recently announced it will join in the local student-led “March for Our Lives” rally and walk this month in support of stricter gun laws. The announcement was part of a resolution, passed during a Feb. 28 work session, that calls tighter regulations on assault weapons and more prevention efforts to reduce gun violence.
March for Our Lives in Seattle is set for 10 a.m. Saturday, March 24, the same day related marches will take place in the nation’s capital and other cities. Students from Seattle and Tacoma are leading the local March for Our Lives event, modeled after the main event planned in Washington, D.C. Local organizers will kick off the event with a rally in Cal Anderson Park and then march to Key Arena.
The march and the board’s decision to participate followed the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire Feb. 14.
Board members in their resolution make it clear they support “sensible gun safety legislation” and reject President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association’s idea to strengthen school security by arming teachers. The resolution further calls for increased funding for student-support programs, raising the age to purchase assault weapons to 21 and eliminating loopholes for private gun sales.
“We believe that students should come to school to develop their love of learning,” Superintendent Larry Nyland and School Board President Leslie S. Harris say in a letter to parents. “They need to be planning for their future not fearing for their future or worrying if their school will be the scene of the next national tragedy.”
The district leaders encourage students and families to discuss the issues, their own beliefs and how they wish to get involved. They urge people to join in the March 24 rally as it falls outside of school hours and provides an opportunity for a large show of support.
In addition to March for Our Lives, many other events are planned for school days, such as walk-outs, which students across the country have engaged in since the Florida shooting. Nyland and Harris say while they respect the students’ First Amendment rights to participate in such demonstrations, Seattle teachers will have to mark participating students with unexcused absences in accordance with state law.
The district leaders further encourage families to make sure students do not have access to guns at home or at friends’ homes, to become familiar with warning signs for gun violence, to pay attention to students’ social media activity and to report concerns to their school, the district Safe Schools Hotline at 206-252-0510 or 911 in emergency situations.
Students’ recent efforts to raise awareness and spur action has stirred government at every level. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, for instance, has invited students, parents, teachers and health officials to a town hall meeting tonight from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on reducing gun violence in Seattle and nationally.
The meeting at Chief Sealth International High School Auditorium, 2600 SW Thistle St., is open to the public. People can also participate in the conversation by tweeting questions with the hashtag #SEAGunViolence.
“Schools are meant for joy and learning — they are not meant for lock downs and mass shootings,” the mayor says in a statement on the town hall. “Our young people are standing up to reduce gun violence, and we should listen.”