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September 25, 2018

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CCSD students will leave class for 17 minutes in gun control statement

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Al Drago / The New York Times

Students sit in protest outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Capitol Hill in Washington, March 7, 2018.

Groups of students in the Clark County School District are planning to walk out of class Wednesday in a demonstration for more strict gun control laws following the mass shooting at a Florida high school last month.

CCSD spokeswoman Melinda Malone said the District supports students working with their school administrators to achieve a result that works for everyone.

“We understand this is an important issue,” Malone said. “This impacts their lives, and we actually applaud [students] for being responsible citizens and having an opinion and we respect that. Our goal is to work with students and to have students work with administrators to express themselves and protest, but we want to make sure our kids are safe at the same time … If parents don’t know where their [kids are] at, that’s an issue. We want to provide an avenue where kids can express themselves.”

Desert Oasis High School senior Kaitlyn Willoughby, 18, is one of the students organizing a demonstration. The day marks the one-month anniversary of the Florida shooting and is also National School Walkout Day, an event in which students nationally plan to walk out of school for 17 minutes to protest what they say is a lack of sensible gun control legislation. There were 17 victims in the Florida shooting.

“A lot of what student activists are wanting is less gun violence and more safety in soft spots, which are schools, concerts, libraries, stores, nightclubs—places that aren’t secured that people can easily target,” Willoughby said.

Northwest Career and Technical Academy senior Brock Moody, 17, says the issue of gun violence isn’t about taking away people’s guns or infringing on the second amendment. Rather, it’s about making it less easy for people — like the Route 91 gunman — to take so many innocent lives.

“There’s no way he could have killed as many people if he didn’t have these high powered [weapons],” Moody said.

A CCSD memo sent to parents Friday said officials are encouraging students to seek other avenues to speak up. The memo said students who don’t show up to class without preapproval could be marked tardy and unexcused.

"It is part of our job as educators to encourage students to be active participants in democracy,” according to the memo. “We encourage students to express their opinions through petitions, by speaking up on social media, and by making statements to the media, when appropriate.”

Clark High School Senior Lauryn Tsai is leading a walkout at her school with the support of administrators because she’s tired of hearing about people dying from gun violence.

“Why does this continue to happen? Why hasn’t anything been done about it? One of the biggest mass shootings was here in Vegas, and you’d think something would’ve been done to prevent it from happening again,” Tsai said.

Since the Florida shooting, two Las Vegas students have been expelled for bringing gun onto campus, bringing the issue even closer to valley classrooms.

“[Clark is] in the middle of the city, so there are a lot of undocumented students and students that are unaware that they have a voice,” Tsai said. “We’re saying you do have a voice, and you do matter.”