Students band together to organize a walkout on March 14 honoring and remembering the fallen victims of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

On March 14, DGN students plan to exercise their First Amendment rights, and walk out of the school in silence at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes to honor the 17 people who died after a school shooting in Florida on Feb. 14.

The DGN walkout is recognized nationally on the Women’s March Youth Empower website. Senior Isa Chudzik and junior Mary Wojcik, two students who have taken charge of the walkout, want to emphasize the importance of respectful silence and inclusivity at the heart of the event.

“March 14 is going to be a silent walkout; it’s about remembrance. This walkout is about anyone frustrated with how things are. This is about us students having to face the terrifying unknown,” Chudzik said.

Teachers are encouraged not to give their students tests or other assessments during the walkout. Students who do not wish to participate in the walkout but want to support the cause are encouraged to wear orange as a tribute to the Wear Orange campaign associated with National Gun Violence Day.

The purpose of the walkout is to give students an opportunity to share their voices whether they want to participate or not. Chudzik stresses that it is perfectly within a student’s right to not walk out.

Senior Adam Rodenbostel does not want to participate because he feels it won’t achieve anything.

“I think people have the right to protest in whatever way they want, but walking out of school to protest on the right to own guns doesn’t seem effective to me,” Rodenbostel said. “It also seems disruptive to the rest of the students who come to school and want to learn because teachers may not introduce new content during their class periods in order to comply with the protest.”

One defining factor for students who have chosen not to participate in the walkout is a desire to not have to serve detention.

“Students will not be disciplined for engaging in civil protests that do not interfere with the learning environment. However, leaving class unexcused is a violation of school rules, and will result in disciplinary action.   We believe for students to receive the full civics lesson of what it means to participate in a protest also requires accepting the consequences for their actions,“ Superintendent Dr. Hank Thiele said in a March. 8 email to District 99 students and families.

Students who chose to leave class must serve a one hour detention if it is their first offense.  Punishments will be more severe depending on how many unexcused absences a student has, if they disrupt class or if they don’t return to school.  

Many students, including Wojcik and Chudzik, are unswayed by the consequences. They remind students that there are always risks when one chooses to protest.

“From the beginning, I knew there would be consequences. However, this is something I am passionate about, so it shouldn’t matter. During the Civil Rights Movement, protesters didn’t have to worry about detentions–they had to worry about getting shot, hosed, or going to jail. If the worst we are getting is a detention, then we are very fortunate,” Chudzik said.

April 20 is another date nationally recognized as a walkout. However, this date is rumored to be a full-day walkout. Chudzik and Wojcik will keep students updated. Those who partake in a full-day walkout are subject to greater consequences.

Seniors Chudzik, Emily Gornik and Prevail Bonga have taken to Twitter and juniors Wojcik,  Margaret Kelly and an anonymous student created an Instagram account to share information. Both use the handle @dgnwalkout.

“We wanted to make sure that accurate information was being spread,” junior Mary Wojcik said. “[We talk] to teachers and administration to get factual information, and then spread it on Instagram.”

Schwarze and associate principals Dr. Ken Sorensen and Kelly Zurener held a meeting with a select group of high school students to collaborate on the procedure for the March 14 walkout. As of March 7, the walkout will start at 10 a.m. with students meeting at Carsten’s Field.  After 17 minutes, students will re-enter through the Prince Street entrance. Students must scan their student IDs through the Tardy Tracker so they are accounted for after the walkout and so deans know who to give detentions to.

“Students choosing to walk out of school during school hours will be encouraged to achieve their goals in the safest and least disruptive way, such as by congregating in a safe area, away from traffic,” Dr. Thiele said in a Feb. 22 email.

DGN’s security staff and DG police officers will supervise the walkout.

The conversation continues as Chudzik, Wojcik and other DGN students plan to attend a student forum at Willowbrook High School on March 12 at 9:30 a.m.  High school students and teachers from 23 schools will meet with state legislators and discuss how they can work together to protect high schools and start a dialogue about gun control.

“I’m looking forward to hearing what other high school students have to say and what they plan on doing for the walkouts. Hearing how other schools are going to execute it is going to be very helpful so we can incorporate and adjust for the DGN population,” Chudzik said.

Plans have been made to hold a March for Our Lives on Saturday, March 24.  The march will be similar to the ones in Washington DC and Chicago. This local, non-school-affiliated march will start at 11 a.m. in the DGN Main Street parking lot.  At 12 p.m, protesters will march down Main Street until they reach the train tracks.

“We are hoping that our students would choose to walk on the March 24 protest instead. We are working with a couple of members of the community to organize this sister march. I am hoping that students who want to make a statement will participate then. Coming in on a Saturday and doing a full march is being committed,” Schwarze said.