Westerville City School District students are planning to participate in two organized national walkouts scheduled at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 14, and Friday, April 20.
Westerville Central High School junior Liam Eadie is organizing the participation among all three high schools in the Westerville City School District, and he started an online petition about the walkouts at http://bit.ly/2H9wIJj.
The petition states the students of Westerville City Schools are going to participate in the nationwide events for gun reform and school safety.
March 14 will mark the one-month anniversary of the shooting incident at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed and 14 others were injured.
Students plan to commemorate the lives of the 17 victims by walking out of the school at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes.
They will observe one minute for each life lost, Eadie said.
April 20 is the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Columbine, Colorado, where 12 students and one teacher were killed.
"We will host a national walk-out followed by student speakers and, hopefully, leaders of our community," the petition states. "We will meet at a predetermined location where we will give anyone a chance to speak."
Eadie said he has requested Gov. John Kasich and U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, a Republican, and Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, to attend the event and speak to students about what they can do to stay safe in school now and in the future.
"Personally, I do not feel safe when shootings such as these happen," Eadie said. "If 17 people can be attacked and murdered at a high school in Florida, then 17 people can be attacked and murdered in Westerville, Ohio. We are not special.
"We shouldn't have to walk into school wondering if today is the day we might not leave."
Greg Viebranz, executive director of communication and technology for the district, said the district already has communicated to families in a recent safety message that, should students choose to organize or participate in various activities as a display of unity with their fellow students around the country, the pledge to them and to district families is the school will remain focused on providing a safe environment in which students can learn and, should they so choose, express themselves on this topic.
"We have informed our principals that there should be no academic penalties or discipline for any student who participates in a walkout," Viebranz said. "The one thing we ask of students is that they remain on school grounds. We also have encouraged teachers to avoid scheduling tests or quizzes on any of the days where a walkout may occur."
He said many of Westerville's students might be viewing this as their moment to get involved and make a difference in an issue that has local, state and national implications.
"We're asking our staff and school leadership to keep a focus on maintaining a safe environment for them as they exercise their rights to be heard," Viebranz said.
Eadie said his goal is to have as many students as possible from all three high schools participate.
"If we get a large number of participants, then we will try to schedule the protest at one of the high schools so the entire district can come out and support us," he said. "If we have a smaller number, then we will just hold the protest at Central in one of the parking lots."
Eadie said his petition is meant to inform the school administration that students will be peacefully protesting.
"This is a conversation that we should be having all over the United States, not just in D.C.," he said. "This is something that needs to happen and be spoken about and hopefully fixed."