Students plan walkout March 14

Louis Catania and Abbie Wolff are two of the students organizing a walkout on March 14 in support of the survivors of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School Feb. 14. (Enterprise photo — Glynis Hart)

SARANAC LAKE — One month after 17 students and teachers were murdered at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students at Saranac Lake High School plan to walk out of class.

On March 14, at 10 a.m., students will walk out of school for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim of the mass shooting.

The walkout is taking place simultaneously with walkouts at schools across the country, encouraged by the Never Again movement begun by survivors of the massacre at Parkland.

Louis Catania and Abbie Wolff, co-presidents of the Honor Society as well as vice president and president of the Model United Nations club, are organizing the walkout with Erica Swirsky, Jackson Carlisto, Sarah Dalton and others.

“We can’t vote, but we can use our voice,” said Wolff. “We’re doing our part to let people know we care about this, too.”

Wolff and Catania said they are being careful not to alienate fellow students who may not agree with them on some points. “We just want something to be done,” said Wolff. “The last thing we want is a counter-protest to erupt.”

The students stopped short of naming a political agenda for the walkout, careful to keep their personal opinions on gun control out of the discussion.

Catania said he had done a survey for his statistics class that found a majority of students at Saranac Lake High School have guns at their homes.

“Our student class president is on the other side of this issue from me,” said Wolff. “I’ve had very civil conversations with him about this. He’s organizing an assembly the day before the walkout. We want to have a peaceful discussion of what we feel and why we feel that way.”

Originally, the walkout organizers planned to walk along LaPan Highway, but school administrators objected for safety reasons. They’re still working out what they’re going to do instead.

They’re also going to have tables where juniors and seniors can register to vote. Seventeen-year-olds can register to vote if they will turn 18 before the next election.

“Even though there are people who can’t vote, the time when they’ll be able to is around the corner,” said Wolff.

The students said many students at the high school feel passionately about the issue. Teachers are supportive, but they can’t walk out.

“The school has been very supportive — they can’t publicly say they’re in support,” said Wolff. “But they can make sure we’re not penalized. Teachers can’t walk out because there’s a state law against strike activity.”

Both Wolff and Catania have a little political experience, interning with the 2016 congressional campaign of Democratic congressional candidate Mike Derrick as well as involvement with Model UN. Seniors at SLHS are required to take either a government or an economics class. Wolff plans to major in political science in college.

Before the Parkland massacre, Wolff said, she was paying attention to the problem of school shootings, but the opportunity to do something about it was missing.

“The Never Again movement has given us the opportunity to speak out,” said Catania.

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