June 21, 2018
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Lisbon high school threatens to discipline students who join gun violence walkout

Gillian Jones | AP
Gillian Jones | AP
Taconic High School students march around the running track during a rally at the school's athletic field in Pittsfield, Massachusetts on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018. A nationwide walkout is planned at schools across the country for Wednesday to protest Congress’ lack of action in addressing gun violence in schools.
By Beth Brogan, BDN Staff
Updated:

FREEPORT, Maine — High School students across Maine, including much of the midcoast, will walk out of classes at 10 a.m. Wednesday to protest Congress’ lack of action in addressing gun violence in schools.

In nearly every midcoast high school — from Freeport to Topsham to Boothbay Harbor — students are scheduled to remain outside for 17 minutes — one for each life lost when a former student opened fire Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Most superintendents have taken no position, and some have taken steps to turn the action into a “teachable moment.”

But at one school, students who join tens of thousands of others across the East Coast in walking out at 10 a.m. will be subject to disciplinary action, although administrators declined on Friday to say what that would be.

At Lisbon High School, while administrators have planned a moment of silence and will allow students to meet in a designated area of the school to express their feelings, those who do participate in the walkout will be subject to disciplinary action, Superintendent Richard A. Green wrote in a Feb. 28 letter to parents.

“School officials will follow policies and procedures related to students leaving school grounds without permission,” Green wrote, adding later, “We do however respectfully ask that you call and dismiss your child if you know that they are planning to leaving the building as they will not be able to return and will be subject to disciplinary action.”

That move falls just short of what School Administrative District 13 in Somerset County initially did in warning students not to walk out. That district later softened its stance, although the alternative offered will be inside the building, not a walkout.

Other districts are taking a different tack. Brunswick Superintendent Paul Perzanoski wrote in a March 5 letter to the community that students would be allowed to join the protest, and “to express their views in a peaceful fashion.”

But Perzanoski went a step further, inviting students into Crooker Theater at the high school for a question-and-answer session with local legislators beginning at 10:25 a.m.

“It is our intent to utilize this teachable moment to promote our democracy by experiencing its impact in an objective, reasonable and positive way,” he wrote. “Our diversity of views provides the strength for our nation.”

Administrators at Morse High School, which includes Bath and the towns of Arrowsic, Georgetown, Phippsburg and Woolwich, have also granted students permission to participate, the Times Record reported.

Morse Principal John Pinkerton told the newspaper, “there won’t be penalties, certainly,” for students who participate.

Similarly, Becky Foley, superintendent of Regional School Unit 5 in Freeport, said administrators “are supporting the students’ right to have a voice on a national policy issue in a safe and structured environment,” The Forecaster reported.

In Boothbay Harbor, Boothbay Region High School Principal Daniel J. Welch wrote in a letter to parents that “a significant portion of our student body is arranging a planned walk out of the school at 10:00 a.m. on this day,” in order to honor and memorialize those who died, and to read the names of the victims and hold moments of silence.

Welch wrote that while the administration “is not endorsing this activity,” students will be allowed to participate without penalty as long as behavior is appropriate and they return to class quickly.

He wrote that Boothbay Harbor police officers would be present during the action.

The Women’s March Network’s Youth Empower organized the National School Walkout, which calls for students, teachers, administrators, parents and allies to walk out of school at 10 a.m. Wednesday, for 17 minutes, to protest “Congress’ inaction to do more than tweet thoughts and prayers in response to the gun violence plaguing our schools and neighborhoods.”

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