Oakwood, Kettering students plan large walkout rally

Students at Oakwood and Fairmont high schools are organizing a walkout and student rally April 20 in conjunction with nationwide events protesting school violence and gun laws.

The event, which will feature student speakers as well as political candidates, is scheduled for 11 a.m. that Friday at Lincoln Park Civic Commons – the park immediately outside Fraze Pavilion in Kettering.

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“We marched to demand change and action all over the country, but we aren’t done,” said Oakwood High School sophomore Sammy Caruso, the lead organizer of the local event. “Now it’s time to keep our momentum going and keep demanding change in order to have a safer tomorrow.”

A flier posted online by Oakwood’s school walkout student group says the event is part of a movement “to protest school shootings and demand safer gun laws in this country.” It’s the latest of several such events in the wake of a Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and school staff dead.

Both Oakwood and Fairmont held brief student walkout events March 14, one month after the Parkland, Fla., shooting. Some local students also traveled to Columbus to protest at the Ohio Statehouse, and went to the March for our Lives in Washington, D.C. on March 24.

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Caruso said he hopes students from all around the Dayton area, as well as teachers and parents, will participate in the rally.

“We are all in this together,” Caruso said. “This rally lets students’ voices be heard so that the community, the state, and the country knows we are fed up with gun violence, and we demand action right here in Dayton.”

Caruso said adult speakers will include three Democratic candidates — Tara Samples, who is running for lieutenant governor on Dennis Kucinich’s ticket; John McManus, who is running for the statehouse seat that represents Oakwood and Kettering, and Theresa Gasper, who is running for the 10th Congressional District seat.

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Fairmont High School sent home a letter to parents last week, saying the event is not a Kettering City Schools sponsored activity, but that the school district “recognizes for some students and families, this is an important educational event and they would like to participate.”

Kettering schools’ letter says classes will be held as usual April 20, but if parents return a signed permission slip by April 11, their students will be dismissed from school early that day, and it will be treated as excused absence time. The form says parents who sign it are responsible for the supervision of their children the rest of the day, as school staff will not be supervising the event.

Fairmont’s school walkout group, led by student Meigan Karolak, posted a message on its Twitter page urging students to take the issue seriously — “This is a privilege. Do not simply get (the permission slip) signed just to get out of school. Please only turn this in if you plan to attend the protest,” the message said.

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