Decatur woman organizing school walkouts to protest gun violence

After yet another deadly school shooting, a fed up Decatur mother decided she couldn’t wait any longer for change to come.

Clare Schexnyder heard the reports of gunfire that killed at least 17 people this week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. She watched the footage of SWAT teams rescuing students. And she thought: What is it going to take to stop school violence and reform gun laws?

“I’m not powerless. I can do something. I can create change,” said the parent of a City Schools of Decatur eighth grader.

So she logged onto Facebook and at about 5 p.m. Thursday created a page calling for parents and community members to join in a nationwide school walkout — a protest she hopes will push politicians to change gun laws.

Schexnyder and supporters plan to hold walkouts at 10 a.m. March 14. Organizers are suggesting that demonstrators then gather at noon at state capitols and city halls to continue the advocacy.

The group initially planned to stage school walkouts earlier, on March 2, but moved the date to align with events planned by Women’s March Youth EMPOWER, which  announced a national school walkout to take place at 10 a.m. March 14 in every time zone. They are urging students, teachers, administrators and parents to walk out of school for 17 minutes that day.

The locally led effort is among the many responses to the Florida shooting, in which alleged killer Nikolas Cruz, 19, legally purchased the AR-15 he used.

In about 24 hours, Schexnyder’s social media effort had attracted more than 7,800 followers. She held a meeting Friday afternoon at her home to discuss the group’s next steps.

“It seems to me that things get done when people are unified in purpose,” said her friend, Shirley Banks, of Stone Mountain, who is helping with the planning.

Gun violence protests have taken place in several communities in the wake of the Florida shooting.

On Friday, students in the same Florida school district took absences to gather outside their high school and protest gun violence. Another rally is planned today in Fort Lauderdale, where members of the teachers union, school board, parents, and other groups will hold a rally to support gun control and firearm safety legislation.

Anna Fusco, president of the Broward Teachers Union, said educators in her school district are taking on advocacy roles after the deadly incident that happened not far from the union hall.

“I guarantee that this is the beginning of something that is not going to end until there is gun reform,” she said.

-- This article has been updated after organizers changed the  original date of the walkout planned by Schexnyder.