Some Oxford Hills parents want answers on student protest

Some Oxford Hills parents say they want answers about why last week's student walkout turned into a rally, leading to suspensions for more than 30 students (WGME)

SOUTH PARIS (WGME) -- Students in the Oxford Hills School District were suspended after taking part in last week's national school walkout and then continuing the rally after the allotted time frame.

At Monday's school committee meeting, parents expressed frustration about what they say was a lack of communication between the district and parents.

Parents said what was supposed to be a silent memorial turned into a political anti-gun rally.

One parent told the committee, "If I had known about the second protest I probably would've held my son home that day."

Last Thursday, MSAD 17 officials allowed students at the high school to stage a 17-minute silent walkout in remembrance of those killed in the Florida school shooting.

“What we wanted was to see a change and to see attention brought to an issue we thought should be solved,” said Caroline Burns, who participated in walkout.

Burns was one of about 200 students to walk out of class, but a debate has engulfed the community over a second protest that followed.

Parents said that rally turned political.

The district said more than 30 students broke the rules outlined in a letter, staying beyond the 17 minutes to continue a vocal protest against gun violence.

"You stay inside you’re on the side of people that believe this then you go outside you’re on the side of people that believe that. That's no place to put a child,” Gordy Wilson, parent, said.

"A lot of us who stayed out after wanted to do more than just remember their lives. Because I think a way to remember their lives would be to fight back against an issue that caused their deaths,” Burns said.

Those students were issued in-school suspensions for one day.

"I think parents and students both knew what the consequences were well before the event even occurred and, therefore, I think they made a decision based on their knowledge of the consequences,” MSAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts said.

While the debate over why the walkout was allowed in the first place continues, teacher Joe Cummings hopes these student's voices will be heard.

“These kids are the next generation and they have wonderful opinions and I hope we can respect that,” he said.

The school committee will now review its policy in the coming weeks on how to handle future walkouts.

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