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Utah schools prepare for student walkouts

SALT LAKE CITY – Schools across Utah are preparing for walkouts as students plan to leave their classrooms to memorialize the people killed in the Parkland, Florida shooting and call for action.

Many schools have designated places for students to go outside their buildings for the 10 a.m. demonstrations. Students plan to go outside for 17 minutes to honor the 17 victims of the shooting.

“The thing that I’ve learned is just to give the kids their voice and it’ll go smoothly,” said Principal Gary Twitchell of Westlake High School. “One of the things we try to help them understand is that they can make changes if they get involved.”

“It’s students who have taken it on and it’s been really impressive to see what they can do and to hear how eloquent they are. We want to make sure that they know their voices matter to us at the district and that they have a safe space to express those opinions,” said Salt Lake City School District spokesperson Yándary Chatwin.

While many students plan to participate in the walkout Wednesday morning, others have already started another movement. In a Facebook post, the Westlake High School student body supported the idea of a “walk-up”. They want classmates to walk up to 17 people they don’t typically interact with and try to befriend them.

“It’s just to be nice and to reach out to people who may be alone or may act differently than you do,” said Westlake junior Logan Story. “I’ve struggled with being alone during lunch and I don’t want that to happen to other people.”

“What we hope is that our students will walk up to people and befriend them, you know, find the kid that might be disenfranchised and reach out to them,” Principal Twitchell said. “Get them to feel that they’re a part of the school, help them feel wanted, help them feel cared about.”

Story hoped the walk-up would have an impact long after people came back inside from the walk-out.

“You don’t just have to do it tomorrow. You can do it whenever or however, just, you should do it,” he said.

Students across the area also plan to march to the State Capitol on March 24.

Related: Schools brace for massive student walkouts over gun violence

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