Meet The Students Who Dreamed Up Friday's National School Walkout
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This next story highlights the power of a single citizen. She's a 16-year-old in Connecticut who responded to the school shooting in Parkland, Fla. The same day, she started a petition on change.org, which now has more than a quarter-million signatures. She called for a national school walkout, which has now grown from an idea to an actual event tomorrow with thousands of people participating. Cassandra Basler of member station WSHU has the story of the student who started it.
CASSANDRA BASLER, BYLINE: That student's name is Lane Murdock. And on one of the last days of spring break, she and seven others from Ridgefield High School in Connecticut get together around a few tables at their town rec center.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Yeah. Can I see the to-do list?
BASLER: They've been working hard and even sometimes losing sleep, trying to get organized. Murdock jokes about how a friend caught her working on plans for the National School Walkout at an ungodly hour.
LANE MURDOCK: Hey, Lane, it's 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Why are you on Facebook? And I was like, success knows no sleep, like...
BASLER: Success knows no sleep. Murdock reminds her team that they are days away from the biggest event they have ever planned - more than 2,000 walkouts across the country.
MURDOCK: That's why, again, like, prioritize because we're not going to be able to get a hundred percent of these things. I can guarantee that. But it's important that we get the important things.
BASLER: Murdock wants the National School Walkout to go down in history but acknowledges that it won't represent every student's perspective. Some polls show that young people are no more liberal than older generations on gun control. And other students who live with gun violence daily have said they don't feel represented in the social movements following the shooting at Parkland. Murdock wants it to be an inclusive day and knows it'll be uncomfortable.
MURDOCK: You know, like, we get hate comments online all the time because we're angering people, and we're angering people because we're scaring them. And if we're scaring them, it's because we're doing something.
BASLER: She wants people to know that this walkout is not like the March for Our Lives. It's not like the 17 minutes of silence on March 14 in honor of the victims in Florida. This National School Walkout will include something the organizers refer to as a call to action, and it'll last nearly all day.
MURDOCK: And a lot of people ask me like, why - why all day? Like, why?
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Why? Why?
MURDOCK: And, like - and it because it's, like, this is a topic that deserves more than 17 minutes.
BASLER: Paul Kim is the senior in charge of communications for the event. He's also mobilizing students at the protest.
PAUL KIM: There are a lot of people really excited about registering people to vote. And the League of Women Voters - I think that we should go with them because they're on campus all the time.
BASLER: These student organizers have gotten help from a national nonprofit called Indivisible, a group that aims to get young people involved with government and challenge President Trump's agenda. Kim says the group helped them map their outreach online. He tells his classmates how proud he is of all the walkouts they've registered across the country.
KIM: I got every chapter signed up in Texas. And, like, these people email back - I could, like, feel the Texas in their email.
KIM: ...The accent, like, everything.
BASLER: To Lane Murdock, the widespread support they've seen for the walkouts shows that sensible gun control doesn't have to be partisan.
MURDOCK: No, I don't care who your party is, and I don't care who you naturally will, like, vote for as long as you're voting for common-sense gun control. It is just about making sure that our children don't get harmed in school, and we don't live in a community and a country that has institutionalized fear - because we are in a country that has institutionalized fear.
MURDOCK: And well, I think we're all sick of it. That's why we're doing this.
BASLER: She grew up with that fear. Her school held regular lockdown drills, and she was in fifth grade when 26 students and educators were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. It happened just 20 miles from her classroom. She says there's a reason why she felt desensitized when she heard about Parkland. She tells the group, and they agree, gun violence has gone on for too long.
MURDOCK: Change happens through patience. And this fight does not stop after April 20.
BASLER: Murdock says there's still a lot of work to do, and that starts tomorrow at 10 a.m. local time, when thousands of students will march out of their classes wearing orange for gun safety and chanting for change. For NPR News, I'm Cassandra Basler in Connecticut.
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