AUBURN — Edward Little High School students Leah Burtchell and Miranda Chadbourne, both 15, have had it with students dying in school shootings.

They and other students across Maine are joining forces with Parkland, Florida, high school students David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, who are demanding stricter gun laws while also taking on the National Rifle Association.

On Wednesday, a month after the Valentine’s Day shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Burtchell, Chadbourne and other ELHS students will face detention to participate in “#Enough: National School Walkout,” which is a call for tougher gun laws and an effort to honor last month’s shooting victims.

“We’re doing this to show unity,” Chadbourne said. “We stand with the Douglas students who are fighting the gun laws. The laws should be stricter. The age should be 21 to buy any type of gun. Assault rifles should not be allowed. Those are weapons of war.”

The threat of school detentions will not deter students, they said, adding that the administration is working with them providing extra security. The walkout is not a school-sanctioned event, and not all students agree the walkouts are appropriate.

“One student told me the walkout is against American liberty,” Burtchell said. “I said: ‘No one is trying to take away the Second Amendment rights. We’re trying to improve the Second Amendment. We want change. We want this to happen now. How many more lives is it going to take?”

Across Maine, high school students are joining the national movement of #Enough National School Walkout on Wednesday.

But at several schools, including Lewiston High School, students will walk out of classes but stay indoors, gathering inside to organize and demonstrate, according to student organizer Christa Wilcox, 16.

“A lot of it is about honoring the people who died in all these crazy shootings,” Wilcox said. “For a lot of other people, it’s in hopes to get the attention of lawmakers who are still allowing these guns.”

The guns include assault rifles, which Wilcox said are “only meant to kill people.”

Wednesday’s movement is about her generation taking a stand, Wilcox said. While some older people do not want tougher change, “change could happen if we all band together,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said she turns 18 in 2019, which is especially meaningful to her.

“I’ll be thinking about the consequences of voting,” she said.

According to the Women’s March website, the March 14 #Enough National School Walkout day includes a number of high schools in Maine, including: Leavitt Area High School in Turner, Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Bonney Eagle in Standish, Mt. Ararat in Topsham, Greely High School in Cumberland, Thornton Academy in Saco, Morse High School in Bath and Lincoln Academy in Newcastle.

Also, high schools in Brunswick, Camden, Cape Elizabeth, Gorham, Waterville, Portland, Scarborough and Westbrook.

According to interviews with students and administrators, the demonstrations will look different school to school.

Lewiston High Principal Jake Langlais said out of safety concerns, students will stay indoors.

He does not agree with interrupting the school schedule, but said students will not be disciplined for participating.

“The student-driven show of solidarity should not be denied,” Langlais said in a letter to parents.

In Turner, the student walkout will be not be about gun regulations. It will be about remembering victims, according to Leavitt high school student organizer Chloe Veilleux, 18.

Stricter gun laws will not come up, she said.

“It’s a really divisive topic,” Veilleux said. “We want to get away from isolating any kids who have different political opinions. We are going to call attention to school safety, that something has to be done.”

Too many lives have been lost, she said. The Parkland shootings “were the last straw.”

Leavitt Principal Eben Shaw said he and students have developed a plan. Students interested can gather outside the school to stand together. Seventeen minutes later, students will return and continue their regular schedules, Shaw said.

At Mt. Blue High School in Farmington, students will be allowed a walk-in instead of a walkout, Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Tom Ward told the school board last week.
Citing student safety, Ward said during the 17 minutes people will be posted at entrances and exits. No community members will be allowed to enter the school at that time, Ward said.
More schools than those listed on the Women’s March list will be  participating, according to school administrators.
Poland High School, for example, is not on the list, but Superintendent Tina Meserve is aware of students making plans.

“We’ve heard some kids want to do a memorial walk in honor of students who died in Parkland,” Meserve said. “And some (students) want to make a statement about school safety.”

If Poland High School students walk out of class Wednesday, they will not be disciplined, she said, but they will have to make up the work.

“High school administrators met with student representatives recognizing the 17-minute walk away from class,” Meserve said. “Our goal is to make sure they’re safe.”

Students will be asked to stay in the lobby and not go outside. They will be provided a space to express their views.

In Lisbon, Superintendent Rick Green also has heard high school students are planning to participate Wednesday.

Green said he will not allow a demonstration outside the school. He does not want his students to be sitting ducks for a disturbed person with evil intentions.

“Any organizing outside opens up whole new opportunities” for unsafe situations, he said.

In a letter to parents, Green said the school will provide a space inside for students to gather and organize.

“They’ll have space for 17 minutes,” he said. “We’re allowing them a place to go.”

Students who walk out of the school will not be stopped, Green said, but their parents will be called to come pick them up.

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Christa Wilcox is one of the organizers for the #Enough National School Walkout on Wednesday at Lewiston High School. “A lot of it is about honoring the people who died in all these crazy shootings,” she said. For others, it is about getting the attention of lawmakers “who are still allowing these guns.” (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little High School  students Leah Burtchell, left, and Miranda Chadbourne in the school’s foyer Friday afternoon. (Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal)

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