Students from five Santa Maria Valley schools have planned peaceful demonstrations Wednesday to demand legislative action on gun violence and school safety.
"This walkout is a call for legislative action, not just conversation, regarding gun violence," reads an Instagram post by Santa Maria Valley United, the group organizing next week's demonstrations. The youth-led coalition (comprised of students from Pioneer Valley, Righetti, Santa Maria, St. Joseph and Orcutt Academy high schools) calls on students at each campus to join their call to action.
At 10 a.m. Wednesday, students will leave class and meet for 17 minutes at a predesignated location on campus. The demonstration will pay tribute to each of the victims of last month's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
During the action, students will chant "Enough is Enough" five times and observe a moment of silence for those who have died as a result of gun violence. Participants are encouraged to wear orange, a color that has been associated with gun violence awareness since 2015.
"The students worked to organize a peaceful protest on campus," said Kenny Klein, spokesman for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District. "We support their efforts to express their solidarity with Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School."
Deborah Blow, superintendent of the Orcutt Union School District, said students participating in Orcutt Academy's on-campus walkout will not be disciplined "so long as it is peaceful and not disruptive to school."
She has been in discussions with principals from the district's elementary and junior high schools, as well as representatives from the district's teachers' association, to positively unite and focus the discussion on school safety.
"We are ensuring that the students have the opportunity to express their views in a positive manner," Blow said. "We all support having safe schools."
The on-campus walkout will be supervised by staff, she said, and students who don't want to participate should not feel the need to do so.
Administrators from St. Joseph did not respond to requests for comment.
A similar walkout also will take place Wednesday at Santa Ynez Valley Union High School.