Students across the United States are planning walkouts over the next two months in response to last week's fatal shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 students and staff dead.

The walkouts are planned to protest gun violence and advocate for tougher gun-control laws.

The branch of the Women's March, Youth EMPOWER, is calling for students, teachers, school administrators, parents and allies to take part in a #NationalSchoolWalkout at 10 a.m. March 14 in every time zone for 17 minutes — one minute for each victim killed in Florida.

Another demonstration, called March for Our Lives, will take place on March 24. Students and families plan to take to the streets of Washington, D.C., and are calling for marches to take place across the country, as well.

Separately, the Network for Public Education is planning a National Day of Action Against Gun Violence on April 20, marking the anniversary of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. 

Superintendents in Bismarck and Mandan say they won't dismiss classes for any walkouts or other demonstrations, but also won't prohibit students from participating in them.

Staff or faculty members who take part in the protests are required to use their own leave time, said Bismarck Public Schools Superintendent Tamara Uselman, who is not aware of any walkouts or related events planned locally.

"Students, though, are expected to be in school, unless they have parent permission to leave," Uselman said.

Without parent permission, they would have an unexcused absence, which comes with a consequence, Uselman said. According to district policy, the superintendent is in charge of developing regulations relating to absences, including consequences. One example of a repercussion Uselman gave was the inability for a student to participate in an afterschool practice or event.

Mandan Public Schools Superintendent Mike Bitz said he is doesn't know of any planned walkouts at his schools.


"If students aren't in school, just like any day when a student isn't in school, we count them absent, and a parent has every right to call in and excuse their child," Bitz said.

Uselman and Bitz repeatedly said parents are free to choose where their children can be.

"We don't use physical restraint to force students to stay in school, so we're certainly not going to tackle anybody and drag them back. They just need to be aware of where their parents expect them to be," Uselman said.

Both superintendents said they plan to continue to monitor to see whether any walkouts are planned in their respective communities.

Additionally, in the wake of the Florida high school shooting, Uselman said the district will send an email to parents to inform them of the district's safety protocol for campus intruders. She said she believes the district has a "robust" safety plan and works closely with law enforcement, but believes it's time to provide additional information to parents.

"(Parents) just need a basic understanding of what's in place right now, and so, that's our goal. In the absence of information, you know, you generate fear and conspiracy theories, and we want parents to have facts," she said.

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or