Before Your Event

 

Pull together a group of friends and classmates who have shown an interest in mobilizing your campus for a planning meeting. Below are some suggestions for your walkout. It’s up to you and your fellow organizers what you do, so feel free to take, leave, or change any ideas provided here to fit your circumstances.

At the planning meeting, determine where you’ll lead your classmates

The National School Walkout will take place at 10 AM local time on April 20th and last all day.  At once, all the participating students at your school will silently exit classrooms and then the building, continuing to march together to a predetermined destination. Many students will stay on campus throughout the day. Alternatively, you might end at a popular location (like a park or town square), or you might choose a place with political significance (like your Senator’s office). If your Members of Congress or local lawmakers have an office in your town, we recommend that you consider those locations for your event—after all, the goal is to change laws, and they’re the ones who can do it. Of course, if it’s not feasible to leave campus, you can still have an effective protest right outside your school!

Where will your group be going after the walkout? Many students are remaining on campus and staying out of the classroom for the duration of the day. Whether you are headed off campus or staying near school grounds, make sure your event is planned to maximize accessibility.

 

On Campus

  • Map Out Your Route

    Having a plan available ahead of time will let your attendees know what to expect, and will help you ensure that you’ve picked a route that makes sense. Avoid winding, complicated paths, and keep inclusivity in mind. Would differently abled people be able to participate?

  • Prepare for inclement weather

    Try to find areas on campus that offer shade or protection from the elements if you’ll be staying outdoors and not returning to class.

  • Plan Transportation

    If you’re staying on campus, most people will still be able to take their typical transportation home. If your programming does not last all day, and you are asking students not to return to class, have ways for them to safely get off campus.

  • Consider Terrain

    Make sure that your walkout ends at a location on campus that is (ideally) flat and solid.

  • Remember Restrooms

    Find a location on campus that will be close to accessible restrooms.

Off Campus

  • Map Out Your Route

    Having a plan available ahead of time will let your attendees know what to expect, and will help you ensure that you’ve picked a route that makes sense. Avoid winding, complicated paths, and keep inclusivity in mind. Would differently abled people be able to participate?

  • Consider Safety

    Are there sidewalks along the entire route? Would you have to cross a busy intersection? If you’re thoughtful about these things, your walkout will be a smooth experience for all those involved.

  • Plan Transportation

    Keep in mind accessible transportation if leaving campus. Help make arrangements for students with different needs—maybe someone in your community can lend an accessible vehicle!

  • Consider Terrain

    For those who do not wish or are unable to walk the whole route, consider marking places along the route where they can join. Plan routes that are flat or gently sloped and solid (not muddy, rocky).

  • Remember Restrooms

    Do your best to choose a location with an accessible public restroom nearby.

 

Accessibility

  • If you decide to make or have a stage area, make sure it’s accessible by renting or borrowing a set of portable ramps.

  • Designate a specific space at the front of the event for people with disabilities and their friends/affinity groups to guarantee the best visibility for deaf and hearing-impaired people, people with visual impairments, and people who use wheelchairs.

  • When possible, provide sign language interpretation and publicize this fact on your materials. A program longer than two hours  usually can require at least two interpreters, so keep that under consideration.

  • Remember to keep wide aisles where possible and try to provide written materials, like programs, where possible.

  • A microphone or speaker system will help your voice reach to the back of the crowd. A megaphone will make sure everyone can hear you. Be sure to test your equipment ahead of time, and bring extra extension cords or batteries.

A Note on Accessibility

If you can’t get an accessible vehicle, stage, or ramps from a supportive administration, turn to others in your community. There may be organizations willing to lend their resources to the effort! What else could your community donate? Port-a-potties? Bottled water? Sunscreen? A megaphone? 

Plan Out the Agenda for the Event

Choose an entrance/exit for students to exit the building from. When a crowd starts to form outside, lead organizers should announce where the group will walk to. Think about how long it takes to walk the length of your route and allow for extra time so that classmates at the back of the pack have time to arrive before your program begins. A really good walkout will make room for storytelling, allowing affected people and organizers to make calls to action. It’s also crucial that you think about the long term direction of the movement at this event. Use it as an opportunity to register new voters who will vote out the gun hawks in Congress. Map out the whole itinerary.

Sample Agenda

This will look different if your event is staying on campus and attendees are not returning to class. Make sure you design an agenda that matches your expectations of attendees!

7:00-8:00
Team sets up stage/podium, sound system, and artwork/decorations at the final location of the walkout.

10:00-10:10
Students walk out of the building and gather somewhere near campus.

10:10-10:11
Organizer address the crowd, reminds everyone of the purpose of the event, and commences 13 seconds of silence to honor the 13 killed at Columbine High School. Then, Organizer makes plug for voter registration, names the destination and leads the walk.

10:11-10:30
OPTIONAL—March from campus to lawmaker’s office/other destination, led by speakers, affected people, their families, and advocates.

10:30-10:35
Crowd gathers again, volunteers send around signup clipboards.

10:35-10:40
Organizer leads crowd in chants, and names specific demands (gun reform now, No Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, no NRA money).

10:40-all day
Vote registration volunteers move around through the crowd registering voters on their smartphones using indivisible.turbovote.org.

10:40-10:48
Speaker 1 gives remarks.

10:48-10:50
Organizer leads chants and then introduces Speaker 2.

10:50-10:58
Speaker 2 gives remarks

10:58-11:00
Organizer leads chants, makes a reminder to register to vote and to call your congresspeople. Organizer introduces Speaker 3.

11:00- 11:08
Speaker 3 gives remarks

11:08-11:10
Organizer leads chants, and introduces Speaker 4.

11:10-11:18
Speaker 4 gives remarks, and reminds everyone of the calls to action (join a group, call congress , no NRA money).

11:18-11:20
Organizer thanks all the speakers and gives another reminder about voter registration, and shares information for calling their Senator. Organizer announces open mic.

11:20-1:00
Open mic for any students who wish to voice their opinion about the epidemic of gun violence, potential solutions, or anything else discussed.

1:00-1:25
Organizer announces follow up event, if there is one at the school. Announces other ways to support gun violence prevention work in the local community. Event closes. You can also continue programming until the school day ends to take advantage of transportation.

For the rest of the day, students won’t return to class, but will make calls to their Senators’ offices and flood social media with calls for reform, using the hashtag #NationalSchoolWalkout. Check out our section on “After the Walkout” for ideas, thoughts, and ways to channel energy post-march.

School Administration and Permission

If you want, you can consider talking to school administration about your plans. Ask your Principal, Vice Principal, Dean of Students, Guidance Counselor, or any trusted authority figure about your interest in participating in the #NationalSchoolWalkout by starting a walkout event on your campus. Alternatively, you can send a letter to your principal, in case scheduling a meeting is difficult. You can find a template letter here. Explain to them why this issue is important to you, and what it is you’re fighting for. Even if they don’t support the cause personally, explain that student expression and civic engagement is educational and beneficial. Hopefully, they’ll respect your eagerness to be involved in your country and allow you and your peers to walk out undisturbed. You might even invite administration and teachers to join students in the walkout, depending on your relationships and what your school is like.

In some instances your school might not be supportive. Be sure to check out the chapter at the end of this toolkit outlining your rights as a student, and do your best to familiarize yourself with your school’s policies. If unexcused absences are punishable, for example, would a note from a parent excuse you from discipline? It’s important to think about your own risks and what you’re comfortable with. Has your school punished similar actions in past? How harsh was the discipline? Are you applying for admission to college/university? Has that school made any statements about the student walkouts or have you spoken to an admissions counselor? How do people in your local community feel about gun reform? Thinking about these questions might help you determine what makes sense for students at your school.

Co-Sponsors and Partner Groups

Once you’ve got an agenda, brainstorm a list of potential co-sponsors or partner groups to invite. There might be local organizations led by longtime activists already working in your community. Think of student groups, POC activists, youth organizations, gun violence prevention groups, and other progressive organizations. Having another organization co-sponsor your event will help spread the word, and help you build relationships as you continue to work in the future. It’s important that if you’re a new activist, you create space at your events for longtime organizers whenever possible. Listen to your partners and be open to making changes to your plan based on what they think. Sharing your platform will strengthen your efforts.

Speakers

Brainstorm and invite potential speakers. Victims of gun violence or their families, movement leaders, local activists, pro-gun safety politicians, and clergy might all be good choices to invite to your march. Remember, storytelling is one of the most effective tools at our disposal, and centering those most affected by these tragedies will ensure that the most important voices are heard. Of course, this is a student-led movement, so be sure not to invite so many speakers that they overshadow the students.

Banners and Posters

Paint a banner and make posters. If you can, paint a base layer, and then borrow a projector to trace your lettering onto the fabric before painting. Use contrasting colors that are distinguishable from a distance. You’ll want your banner to mention the name of your school (example: #NationalSchoolWalkout Richmond High) and make clear the reason you’re protesting. It’s important that photographs taken for press or social media are easily recognized as being for your cause. Use the additional paint to make picket signs and extra banners that you can pass out to attendees. Double-sided signs make your event look great on camera from any angle. If you are targeting your Member of Congress or other lawmaker, make some posters that include their name in big letters!

Be sure to align your messaging with the other mobilizations happening around the country!

Chants

Write a chant sheet and pick a chant leader. Practice the chants ahead of time so that you understand the rhythm. Here are some examples:

  • We are students! We are victims! We are survivors! We want change!

  • We want change! We want change!

  • (Call and response) Never! (Never!) Again! (Again!)

  • No more guns!

  • Go away! NRA!

  • You! Are! Responsible! (outside a lawmaker’s office)

  • Vote them out! Vote them out!

  • It ends here!  No more fear!

Assign Key Roles

Choose an emcee, marshals to wrangle the crowd and lead them in the right direction, a photographer, a videographer, press coordinator, social media coordinator, someone to take charge of art supplies and banners (an art coordinator), someone responsible for A/V, etc. You might also consider de-escalators and a police liaison, if that’s necessary in your community.

Suggested Roles

  • Emcee

  • Wranglers

  • Photographer

  • Videographer

  • Press Coordinator

  • Social Media Coordinator

  • Art Coordinator

  • A/V or Tech Coordinator

  • De-escalators or Police Liaison, if necessary

  • Voter Registration Lead

One of the most important roles at this event will be the Voter Registration Lead and Voter Registration Volunteers. Too many Members of Congress have voted in the best interest of the NRA at the expense of their own constituents’ safety. In less than nine months, you will have the opportunity to show them that this is unacceptable by voting them out.

Use Indivisible’s voter registration tool at indivisible.turbovote.org, to make sure that every eligible attendee leaves the event registered to vote and aware of who their Members of Congress are. The voter registration tool is incredibly simple to use! Volunteers should pull up the website on their smartphones or tablets, and guide registrants through the prompts on the screen. They should keep a tally of how many voters they register so that the Voter Registration Lead can add these up at the end of the event. Be sure to announce the total number at the end of the march and share it (with photos!) with stories@indivisibleguide.com!

Permits

Now that your event planning process is well underway, call your local police department, if necessary, and obtain permits for your event. You may need a permit if you’re planning to use a microphone and speaker system, if your crowd reaches a certain size, etc. Have someone who is comfortable check with the local police department to make sure you’re complying with all the relevant laws.

Promote Your Event

Register your event at this website and tweet about it using the hashtags #NationalSchoolWalkout, #Enough, and #NeverAgain. Post your event to Facebook, email it to your friends, and share it through word of mouth. If you have time, ask your Art Coordinator to design a flyer that you can copy and post around school bulletin boards, and in bathroom stalls, or flyers that you can hand out on the street to publicize the event and to make clear your demands—Laws must change to prevent gun violence. Encourage people to get some National School Walkout merchandise or wear orange on the day of the walkout—wearing the merch is a good way to build camaraderie among marchers. Write an op-ed for your school or local newspaper, outlining your platform. No amount of outreach is too much! Only about half of the people who RSVP to an event typically show up, so we’ll want to invite more than we hope will attend.

Contact Media

If you’re promoting your event online, there’s a good chance your local media will hear about it--but it’s always good to reach out yourself. Look up the main phone numbers of your local TV stations, radio stations and newspapers. Call each one and ask who you should email with info about an upcoming event. Email them the information about when and where it will be. To get extra attention on your cause, contact media a week or two before the walkout to see if they’d like to interview the student organizers in advance. (Do this after you are clear with your school administration about your walkout plans. If you are still negotiating the details, going on TV can make that more complicated.) For more, check out: “How to Get Press to Cover Your Event.”

Prepare for Interviews

Your team should decide on one or two main speakers who can appear in interviews. For tips on how to practice for an interview, check out Indivisible’s guide here. If you are targeting your Member of Congress or another lawmaker, plan on calling them out by name. You don’t have to be an expert on them, but when their name is mentioned in the news, they will definitely see it.