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UPDATE: Thousands Of Students Rally Nationwide In Solidarity To End Gun Violence, Houston Students Protest Despite Closed Schools

The National Rifle Association has sent out a defiant tweet that included a picture of an assault-style rifle and a comment saying: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”

The LATEST on the nationwide student walkout to protest gun violence (all times local):

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Students in Greater Houston participated in a few scattered demonstrations

Despite most Houston schools are on spring break, students in Houston are still taking action on the nationwide walkouts to protest gun violence.

High School junior Pari Bondalapati joined about a dozen other people, mostly teachers and moms, at Linkwood Park in Southwest Houston. They drew on the sidewalk with chalk and discussed ways to make schools safer. Bondalapati said she wants more rules on age limits and background checks to get guns.

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5:50 p.m.

The walkouts protesting gun violence at schools across the country hit close to home for students who were attending a middle school in northern Nevada when tragedy hit their campus more than four years ago.

Sparks High School Principal Kevin Carroll says some of his seniors were students at nearby Sparks Middle School when a seventh-grader opened fire on the school playground in October 2013.

Jose Reyes fatally shot Sparks Middle School teacher Michael Landsberry and injured two classmates before turning the gun on himself.

About 200 students at Sparks High participated in Wednesday’s walkout.

Carroll told the Reno Gazette Journal he thinks the protest had the biggest impact on those who experienced the fatal shooting in 2013. He says it was “kind of heartening” to see them participate in the rally.

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5:25 p.m.

An unspecified threat at one northern Nevada high school kept most of its students from walking out of class to participate in a nationwide protest marking the one-month anniversary of a Florida school shooting.

The Douglas County sheriff’s office says a stay-put order was issued at Douglas High School in Gardnerville south of Carson City on Wednesday shortly after the threat was received at about 9:30 a.m.

Deputies and state troopers patrolled the campus and surrounding area before they determined there was no danger and the order was lifted by 11 a.m.

The Record-Courier reports three students managed to make their way out of the school and briefly joined more than a dozen adults who rallied with signs outside.

An officer escorted them back inside the school, which plans to reschedule its demonstration for another day.

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4:35 p.m.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is commending students for speaking up on school safety during Wednesday’s national student walkout.

Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said Wednesday that the secretary “gives a lot credit to the students who are raising their voices and demanding change.”

Hill adds, “She hears them, and their input will be valuable.”

DeVos has said arming teachers should be an option for those schools and communities who want it.

DeVos will chair a federal commission tasked with student safety. On Tuesday, she met with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington state, the top Democrat on the committee overseeing education. Murray complained that DeVos didn’t provide any specifics on the commission’s work and would not discuss any role the National Rifle Association may have in its work.

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New York City mayor joins protesting students

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joined students from a Brooklyn high school as part of the nationwide student walkout to protest gun violence.

De Blasio was with students from Edward R. Murrow High School, one of hundreds of schools around the city where students participated in the walkout.

The Democratic mayor said, “You are making so clear to this whole country that you are sick of the violence. You are sick of the madness. You are sick of the slaughter, and you won’t stand for it.” He told the students to “keep fighting.”

Also in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took part in a “die-in” to protest gun violence.

The Democratic governor, dressed in a suit and tie, lay down on the pavement in Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park along with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten and students from Leadership and Public Service High School. Cuomo chanted “Gun control now!”

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3:50 p.m.

Hundreds of Kentucky high school students joined a nationwide gun violence protest by traveling to the state Capitol for a rally in frigid weather.

The rally in Frankfort included a group of students from Marshall County High School, the site of a deadly school shooting in January. The students got a pass Wednesday to leave school and travel more than three hours to the Capitol.

Marshall County student Cameron King urged the demonstrators to “keep screaming, keep yelling, keep fighting until you make a change, because we are the change.” King recalled fleeing the school during the Jan. 23 shooting and hiding at a car dealership.

Students huddled near the front entrance, chanting and carrying signs that said “Never Again” and “Books Not Bullets.”

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3:25 p.m.

South Carolina’s largest school district says it’s going to reprimand several hundred students who participated in a national walkout to protest gun violence at schools.

Greenville County Schools spokeswoman Beth Brotherton said Wednesday that students who participated in the walkout will be cited for cutting class. She said school records show that about 530 students participated at about a dozen high schools.

The high schools with the most participation were J.L. Mann Academy in Greenville, with about 200 students walking out; and Maudlin High School with about 180. Overall, the district has about 77,000 students.

District officials had said before the walkout that they were discouraging students from participating and didn’t plan to allow news media to cover the activity.

Around the country, school administrators have taken varying stances toward the walkouts that were launched in the aftermath of a deadly rampage at a Florida high school last month that killed 17 people.

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3:05 p.m.

Up to 300 students in Lawrence, Kansas, joined the nationwide walkout against gun violence, while some of their parents formed a symbolic protective ring around the school.

Sophomore Elliot Bradley read the names of the 17 people killed last month at a high school in Parkland, Florida, and said the protesters wanted legislative change.

About 200 adults joined in a “Wrap the Walkout,” which urged adults to “wrap” themselves around the school to show support for the students.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports the school district said students who participated would be excused.

In Topeka, about 1,000 students from Topeka High School joined the walkout and marched three blocks to the Kansas Statehouse to participate in a rally coordinated by Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

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2:40 p.m.

About 50 protesters supported student walkouts by gathering at the field office of a North Carolina senator to decry his connection to the National Rifle Association.

The protesters braved chilly temperatures and gusty winds outside U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s office in Winston-Salem on Wednesday. Across the nation, young people walked out of classes to demand action on gun violence.

According to watchdog group The Center for Responsive Politics, the NRA has spent nearly $7 million to support Burr’s campaigns over his career.

Protesters held signs saying “Books Not Bullets” and “Is 7 Million Dollars Worth 17 People’s Lives?”

Some motorists honked their car horns in support. One driver told the group to protest opioids because guns don’t kill, drugs do. One protester responded, “They both do.!”

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

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2:30 p.m.

In Las Vegas, home to the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, more than 350 students left classes as part of a nationwide school walkout and rallied on the steps of the city’s oldest high school with signs reading “Enough is Enough” and chants like “NRA, stay away.”

Tanya Abarico, a Las Vegas Academy of the Arts junior, noted the Oct. 1 mass shooting in Las Vegas and said students want policies and reform, not thoughts and prayers.

Student body President Darian Fluker invoked shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012 and the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. She calls the walkouts a march for student lives.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

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1:45 p.m.

The National Rifle Association has sent out a defiant tweet that included a picture of an assault-style rifle and a comment saying: “I’ll control my own guns, thank you.”

The tweet was posted Wednesday morning as students around the country staged school walkouts to protest gun violence. The NRA has come under increased criticism since last month’s shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people. The gunman in that shooting used an AR-15 assault rifle.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

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1:15 p.m.

Students at Columbine High School in Colorado are participating in the nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence.

About 250 students left school and gathered on a soccer field next to the building Wednesday.

They held red, white and blue balloons and released them as they read the names of the 17 people killed last month at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the worst high school shooting since the 1999 massacre at Columbine.

The names of the 13 people killed at Columbine were also read before the students observed a moment of silence.

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1:15 p.m.

An Arizona legislator who survived a mass shooting in which then-Congresswoman Gabbie Giffords was critically wounded is saluting students participating in nationwide school walkouts over gun violence.

State Rep. Daniel Hernandez said in a Twitter post Wednesday that he stands “in solidarity with all of the young people walking to demand action on gun violence.”

Hernandez also said in his Twitter post that he’s reminded now that young people aren’t just the future but also what he called “vital voices NOW.”

The Tucson Democrat was an intern for Giffords in 2011 when he helped her immediately after she was shot in the head at a constituent event in the Tucson area.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.

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12:50 p.m.

Students hold up their signs during a rally asking for gun control outside of the U.S. Capitol building, Wednesday, March 14, 2018, in Washington. One month after a mass shooting in Florida, students and advocates across the country participate in walkouts and protests to call on Congress for action. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Hundreds of students from the Washington area are rallying at the Capitol to urge stricter gun control laws.

The rally was part of a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence following the massacre of 17 people at a Florida high school last month.

Fifteen-year-old Chloe Appel of Gaithersburg, Maryland, held a sign that said, “Fix this before I text my mom from under a desk.”

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and other lawmakers addressed the crowd. The biggest applause by far was for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Students chanted his name and nearly drowned out his speech.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.

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12:50 p.m.

In northwestern New Mexico, where two students were gunned down by an armed intruder at their high school in December, hundreds of their classmates gathered at the Aztec High flag pole for a “walk-up” rather than a walkout.

The student council had asked school administrators for time in their schedule Wednesday so they could honor the 21 students who’ve been killed in school shootings in recent months —including their two classmates — and to talk about 21 pledges they can take to make their campus safer and to get involved.

Principal Warman Hall said the students wanted to feel empowered but didn’t want a contentious political debate or demonstration.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.

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12:50 p.m.

A student at Kell High School outside Atlanta says the principal there had threatened students with discipline and said they could be in danger since the time of the nationwide protest was widely known and someone could try to harm them outside the school.

Freshman Kirsten Martin said students were scared of the potential punishment, so at 10 a.m. “we just carried on like it’s a normal day.”

Despite the threat, three students at the Marietta, Georgia, school walked out for the 17 minutes of the protest and then went back inside.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.

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12 p.m.

A nor’easter that dropped 2 feet (0.6 meters) of snow in some places in the Northeast closed many Massachusetts schools Wednesday, thwarting plans to participate in a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence.

But students were still taking action. Hundreds of them gathered at a Boston church before a planned march to the statehouse, where they planned to lobby lawmakers to pass legislation aimed at stemming gun violence.

Esmay Price Jones, a Somerville High School freshman, said Parkland, Florida, students started a movement she’s hopeful will result in meaningful change.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Florida.

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12 p.m.

At some schools, students didn’t walk outside, but instead lined the hallways, standing in silence and wearing the school colors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which was the site of last month’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.

Others gathered in school gyms and auditorium.

In Goshen, Indiana, student’s formed a heart on the football field. In Yarmouth, Maine, students walked out despite freezing temperatures and snow.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida.

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Check the virtual walkout feed of Women’s March Youth at https://www.womensmarch.com/enough 

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11:30 a.m.

In Washington, more than 2,000 high-school age protesters observed 17 minutes of silence outside the White House as part of a nationwide school walkout to protest gun violence.

An organizer counted down the seconds until 10 a.m. and the protesters spent the 17 minutes sitting on the ground with their backs turned to the White House as a nearby church bell chimed.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

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11:05 a.m.

Some students at an Ohio high school that had a shooting last year joined the nationwide student walkouts to protest gun violence, despite being warned they could face detention or more serious discipline.

The Springfield News-Sun reports about 10 students exited West Liberty-Salem High School as a group of supporters across the street cheered Wednesday.

Superintendent Kraig Hissong says campus isn’t the place for political demonstrations and it’s not in the district’s interest to endorse political movements.

Students at Kell High School in Marietta, Georgia, were also warned against participating in the nationwide walkout. Police even patrolled outside the school. Nonetheless, three students walked out for the 17 minutes of the protest and then went back inside.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

 

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10:35 a.m.

Police outside Atlanta patrolled Kell High School, where students were threatened with unspecified consequences if they participated in the nationwide walkout to protest gun violence.

A British couple walking their dogs went to the school to try to encourage students, but they were threatened with arrest by police officers if they didn’t leave the campus in Marietta, Georgia.

The nationwide walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida.

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10:35 a.m.

Hundreds of students at Parkland High School, outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, walked out of class and headed to the auditorium for a rally dubbed #parklandforparkland.

That school and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, share more than a name.

Stoneman Douglass freshman Daniel Duff, who survived the shooting by hiding in a closet but lost seven of his friends, is the cousin of Collin and Kyleigh Duff, who are brother and sister and go to Parkland High in Pennsylvania.

The Duff siblings have been selling #parklandforparkland bracelets, raising more than $10,000 for the Florida shooting victims, and Daniel Duff described what it was like to live through the shooting in a video that was shown at the rally.

Parkland High students called for stricter gun laws, read short biographies of each of the 17 shooting victims of last month’s shooting and observed a moment of silence at 10 a.m.

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10:25 a.m.

Viacom is suspending all programming on its networks for 17 minutes as students across the nation walk out of school Wednesday to protest gun violence.

The suspension coincides with the National School Walkout, which started at 10 a.m. The company’s networks include MTV, BET, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, among others.

The walkouts are the biggest demonstration yet of the student activism that has emerged following the massacre of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14.

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Seventeen-year-old Egzona Rexhepi and many of her classmates in Boise, Idaho will join students at schools and universities across the country as they walk out of their school Wednesday to protest gun violence.

The demonstrations will last 17 minutes to honor the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. one month ago. There are more than 2,850 largely student-organized walkouts scheduled, according to EMPOWER, the group behind the national school walkout. National organizers, who are the youth branch of the women’s march, are advocating stricter gun regulation including bans on assault weapons and expanded background checks.

While EMPOWER coordinated nationally, each school needed a leader organize locally. Rexhepi, who is the local high school caucus chair for the Young Democrats, took it upon herself to be that person for Centennial High School in Boise.

She said she felt responsible to do something because she knows she’s often viewed as a student leader.

“I probably shouldn’t wait for someone who just wants to advance their resume with a school shooting,” she said, “which I don’t think is OK at all.”

Eighteen-year-old Tommy Munroe, who is Centennial’s student body president, feels a sense of urgency about this issue because, he said, Stoneman Douglas “could’ve just as easily been my high school.” He doesn’t want his generation — “the generation of Sandy Hook,” — to become desensitized to gun violence.

For Munroe, it’s important for students to be able to be actively involved in politics — and for lawmakers to listen.

“If the government wants to keep getting paid, they need to listen to what we say,” he said.

Rexhepi said that the overall message of the walkout is to encourage some type of change, and she’s encouraged by the national effort.

But even with her role in the Young Democrats, Rexhepi said that politicians and political parties are part of the conflict in the debate about guns.

“It’s become more about political party than actual beliefs,” she said.

Rexhepi worked hard to get the word out about plans for the walkout. She made fliers, which then found their way onto social media. Soon everyone knew, including the administration.

The principal met with her and some of her classmates. To their surprise, they weren’t in trouble. It took some convincing, but soon the walkout had the administration’s support.

According to Rexhepi and classmate Tommy Munroe, school administrators initially said they would clear student absences and even agreed to announce the walkout over the intercom.

School reactions to the walkout have been as varied as opinions on gun rights.

Even other Boise schools are responding differently. The neighboring Boise School District sent memos to parents saying their schools would follow regular attendance guidelines, meaning that parents would need to call to excuse their child’s absence even if he or she were participating in the walkout.

Students and family members hold hands around a makeshift memorial in front of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Feb. 14.

Administrators in the Boise School District were also directed to provide “alternative activities during lunch and break by which students can express their concerns and opinions,” according to the memos, which were sent to NPR by Dan Hollar, a spokesman for the school district.

NPR’s Tovia Smith recently reported several schools that have made students afraid to participate in the walkout. For example, teachers at a high school in Boston were threatening students with write-ups and suspensions.

But on the other side of the country in Idaho, Centennial High School’s student body president Tommy Munroe said his friend Egzona Rexhepi has made an effort to make it easy for students to participate if they want to.

One of the ways she made it easier, he said, is by adjusting the time of the walkout. While most of the country’s walkouts are planned for 10 a.m., Centennial’s is planned for 9:28 a.m. when the bell rings. This will allow students to walk out in between classes, rather than getting up in the middle of a class.

Munroe said some students may be too scared to leave if they are in a class with a teacher who doesn’t support the march, and so may not have an opportunity to participate.

Rexhepi, Munroe and other classmates have dealt with some opposition from students on the other side of the issue. Earlier this week, Rexhepi had organized a poster-making party to prepare for the walkout. A student came in and used supplies Rexhepi had purchased with her own money to make an anti-protest poster. But Rexhepi wasn’t deterred.

“Everyone has their own individual beliefs, those are what the posters are for, is for people to express their voices and their opinions because they have a right to do that, of course,” she said. “But overall, we all want some type of change. And that’s why we’re participating in the walkout.”

Adrienne St. Clair is an intern on NPR’s National Desk.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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