Thousands of Portland area students planning to join nationwide - KPTV - FOX 12

Thousands of Portland area students planning to join nationwide school walkout

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Thousands of students in the Portland area will join the national walkout, one month after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

The demonstration is to raise awareness about the issues of school safety. It will last for 17 minutes, one minute for each life lost in the Parkland school shooting.

The National School Walkout begins Wednesday at 10 a.m. in every time zone across the country.

“We’d rather be scared for a math test than our lives,” said Calum Nguyen, a high school senior in Beaverton.

The 18-year-old said he doesn’t want to live in fear inside the classroom. That’s why Nguyen helped organized the walkout at Sunset High School.

“After the mass shooting in Florida, we did have a lock down. It wasn’t a drill and everyone was freaking out. One of my teachers told us that was the first time she saw fear on her students’ faces. Right now, we still have active mass shooting drills, which is insane,” said Nguyen.

The student said those drills are part of the problem, an acceptance that schools aren’t safe. Nguyen said that’s why he wore an orange arm band during his interview, to show solidarity with the national walk out.

“I think they’re taking a stand on fear,” said Suzanne Cohen.

Cohen also wore orange during her interview with FOX 12. She’s the president of the Portland Association of Teachers and a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“Everyone is standing up for their right to feel safe in school,” said Cohen.

Cohen said this walkout is a district-wide event, a first of its kind for Portland Public Schools. Cohen said 49,000 students attend her district, along with more than 4,000 teachers.

“Every school, every principal,” said Cohen.

However, the national demonstration will look different at every school and in every grade.

"We're going to be writing letters to those people and we're going to be mailing them to Stoneman Douglas showing support. Because we just want to let them know that we're just as mad as they are. Like, the time's up. The time is now. We need safe schools," said Faith Pauken, a Lincoln High School student.

Quinn Perea, a Vancouver middle school student who will be taking part in the walkout, wrote a letter to her Representative, Jaime Herrera Beutler. She asks the representative why she voted to allow mentally ill people to have access to guns. 

Perea explained to FOX 12 why she chose to write the letter.

"Well I don't want to worry about my safety at school, my friends, my teachers safety at school. My classmates safety," said Perea.

Many high school students will hold rallies and remember the 17 lives taken in Florida, but even the youngest students are taking part.

“When you think of younger students like elementary students, there’s a lot that can be shared about caring, compassion and how to be a good friend,” said Cohen.

Cohen said elementary students in her district will hold peace circles and talk about what makes them feel safe.

“It is a first of its kind, and I think it will be challenging for everyone and I think that’s OK - because the alternative is complacency on pretty extreme violence so I think it’s time,” said Cohen.

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