At 10 a.m. March 14, students from several Charleston-area high schools plan to walk out of class for 17 minutes — one minute for each person who died in last week's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla.
At James Island Charter High, senior Rose Mardikian said she was inspired by the shooting survivors from Douglas High who have been tweeting, protesting and appearing on national TV news to call for more aggressive gun control.
"We grew up with cameras in our faces, we grew up with the 2016 elections, we were involved with politics and the women’s marches," Mardikian said. "This wave of high school students, I think it’s a lot different."
Teenagers at James Island Charter and Wando High have said they will join a nationwide act of civil disobedience organized by student activists and the Women's March Network, calling for legislative action to prevent further school shootings.
Wando High senior Carly Knight said a walkout at a school her size — more than 4,000 students by last year's count — is bound to be inconvenient, but it's worth it.
"Most things at Wando are logistically difficult, and I don’t expect this will be any exception," Knight said.
It remains unclear how school officials and administrators will respond, although some have expressed support.
"There is a lot to consider, especially when it comes to the safety of those who might participate in these events on school grounds, and maintaining a normal instructional day for those who might not participate," said Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt. "Once a decision is made regarding this matter, we will communicate that directly to our students, staff and families."
School leaders across the country are anticipating the protest, and some plan to be more lenient than others. In Texas, the superintendent of the Needville Independent School District has threatened students with a three-day suspension if they walk out, according to the Houston Chronicle. Locally, no superintendents have threatened a crackdown so far.
Members of this year's graduating class were born after the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High in Colorado. That incident, and the series of school massacres in the intervening years, have inspired waves of activism but rarely prompted changes in federal law.
The gunman in Florida shot 31 people in about six minutes using a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, the same type of widely available military-style weapon used in mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012; at a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., in 2012; and in Las Vegas last year.
The alleged shooter at Douglas High, Nikolas Cruz, was able to purchase the rifle legally under state and federal laws despite his erratic behavior in school and his relative young age, 19, which is too young to buy alcohol.
"The fact that Columbine happened so many years ago and it still hasn’t changed, it’s pretty disheartening," said Madeleine Albertson, a senior at James Island Charter High. "I’m worried that we’ve gotten so used to school shootings being in the headlines that legislators aren’t doing anything."
There remains confusion about protest dates: While some students at James Island Charter High are talking about joining the March 14 walkout, others are interested in a separate walkout planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
James Island Charter Principal Tim Thorn said he'll work with student government and school resource officers to ensure students are safe during the walkout, whenever it happens. He said he thinks it's "fabulous" that students are engaging with the issue of school safety.
"As a principal I’m very encouraged that young people are finally taking a stand and taking this seriously," Thorn said. "The way schools are going to be safer is if kids talk to each other and kids talk to adults."
Officials in neighboring school districts also are weighing their options for March 14. In Berkeley County, the district already had scheduled a "late-in" day for the high schools, so students will just be arriving on campus at 10 a.m. when the protest is scheduled to start. If a protest does materialize, Superintendent Eddie Ingram does not plan to stop it, according to district spokeswoman Katie Orvin Tanner.
"For us it would just be more about safety and security," Tanner said. "Some of our high schools have a major highway in front of them."
In Dorchester District 2, spokeswoman Pat Raynor said school and district leaders will "determine what appropriate plans would be put into place to insure the safety of students and staff."