AUBURN — The threat of detention and outside temperatures in the teens did not stop more than 100 students at Edward Little High School from walking out of class Monday to protest gun violence.

At 10 a.m. sharp, dozens of students streamed out of the gymnasium entrance and gathered on the steps. One of the organizers held a sign that read, “This IS about guns,” and showed gun death statistics comparing the United States with other countries.

Another sign read, “Give teachers dry erase markers, not guns.”

The walkout was rescheduled by students after a snow day last week postponed Auburn’s participation in the #Enough National Student Walkout on March 14, one month after the deadly high school shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

In response to safety concerns, Auburn Police had set up a barricade Monday at the bus drop-off, and about a dozen police and school administrators stood watch over the event.

After a few words, students sat on the steps in silence to honor the 17 Florida victims before returning to class.

Organizers Leah Burtchell, Miranda Chadbourne and Annabelle Pendleton – all sophomores – said Monday that more students would have participated if the threat of detention were not hanging over them, especially as spring sports are just starting.

Burtchell would likely miss softball practice, but she said she already reached out to her coach.

Last week, Superintendent Katy Grondin said students would be subject to a one-hour detention over the high school’s rule on “cutting” class. Grondin said the school department did not want to “favor one political demonstration over another.”

Grondin was among school staff at the walkout Monday, coordinating the safety measures with police.

Chadbourne said she also heard from fellow students that there had been rumors of potential safety threats to the walkout, which may have deterred more students.

“People were nervous about the circumstances,” she said, adding that it sort of proved the students’ point that they should not have to worry about being safe at school.

During the walkout, the organizers stood on the steps and passed each other a microphone.

Chadbourne said the statistics on gun deaths in America compared to other countries speaks for itself.

“Safety in our schools (currently) is a privilege and not a right,” Pendleton told the crowd of students. “Students should not be afraid of walking down the halls and something happening to them … teenagers should not be living in fear.”

When asked if they believed the conversation on guns would continue in school beyond the walkout, the three organizers said it definitely would between them, but that they weren’t sure of the rest of their classmates.

Burtchell had previously sent a letter to Maine’s congressional delegation. The three students argue they support stricter gun laws, but not the “repeal of the 2nd Amendment,” which is a claim that has been thrown their way.

In an email Monday, Freshman Megan Gervais said not all students participated in the walkout to protest gun laws.

She said, “Many of us went out there for the students, not the guns.”

Gervais also took issue with the school’s decision on handing down detention, adding that “half of us are not serving” the detention.

Burtchell said last week that students had been criticized by many in the community since becoming vocal about gun laws. On Monday, Chadbourne said most teachers have been supportive of students expressing themselves.

But, she said, she heard one teacher say the “walkout won’t accomplish anything” and that students who participate are “ignorant.”

On the other side, they said they knew a lot of teachers who wanted to participate in Monday’s walkout, but were told not to.

“Everyone has different opinions and they have a right to those opinions,” Chadbourne said. “You just have to have yours and not bash other people’s.”

“We’re respecting other people’s opinions but we’re getting bashed for having our own,” Burtchell added.

Jenny Johnson, an instructional coach at the high school, was among the school staff who made the trek outside in the cold to make sure it went smoothly.

“You have to be passionate about something to come out in 10-degree weather,” she said of the students.

She said students have been facing a dilemma all week about whether to participate and face detention. She said it sparked a productive conversation about civil disobedience, and she believes the consequences probably weeded out students who might’ve participated in the walkout just to skip out of 17 minutes of class.

After postponing the walkout last week, the organizers had eyed Wednesday for the event, but ultimately shifted to Monday. Burtchell said they worked with school administrators to make sure there would be a police presence.

Students in Lewiston rescheduled a walkout event for Wednesday, March 21.

A few members of the public also came to show support for the students Monday. Larry Pelletier, a former Auburn School Committee member, stood behind the police barricade wearing multiple layers, a hat and gloves.

Pelletier said he was disappointed with the administration’s decision on handing out detention to students who participated. He also questioned why more people did not know the walkout was planned for Monday.

Pelletier, a U.S. Air Force veteran, said young people are speaking out now because adults haven’t done anything to stop school shootings.

“I don’t consider it protesting,” he said after the walkout. “They’re standing up for other kids like them. This could easily happen anywhere, and somebody’s got to stand up and try to find a solution.”

Before heading back to class, Burtchell, Chadbourne and Pendleton were planning how to participate in the “March For Our Lives” events scheduled around the country for this Saturday, March 24. Boston seemed the consensus, and they might take the train.

“I wish I had my license in times like this,” Chadbourne said.

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A student holds a sign made for Monday’s walkout at Edward Little High School. The event was to protest gun violence and memorialize the 17 students or staff members killed in the mass shooting Feb. 14 in Parkland, Florida. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little High School students assemble on the steps to the school’s gymnasium entrance for a 17-minute assembly Monday to memorialize the 17 students or staff members killed in the mass shooting Feb. 14 at Parkland, Florida, high school. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little students assemble for a 17-minute walkout Monday as part of a national movement to honor the students and staff members who died in the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Parkland, Florida, high school. The walkout was held from 10 to 10:17 a.m., one minute for each Parkland victim. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little students assemble for a 17-minute walkout Monday as part of a national movement to honor the students and staff members who died in the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Parkland, Florida, high school. The walkout was held from 10 to 10:17 a.m., one minute for each Parkland victim. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

Edward Little students assemble for a 17-minute walkout Monday as part of a national movement to honor the students and staff members who died in the mass shooting Feb. 14 at a Parkland, Florida, high school. The walkout was held from 10 to 10:17 a.m., one minute for each Parkland victim. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)


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