While Bangor High School barred the media from its student walkout, John Bapst Memorial High School students demonstrated publicly down the street.
When students at two high schools in Bangor, Maine, made delayed efforts to participate in the National School Walkout to protest gun violence after heavy snowfall caused cancellations on its official date on Wednesday, their demonstrations received unequal media coverage. Not because of a lack of zeal by the students, but rather due to a decision by administrators at one school to ban the press from observing the demonstration.
The Bangor Daily News reported Friday that one of its reporters was escorted from Bangor High School property by city police in accordance with a request from administrators.
Meanwhile, students at John Bapst Memorial High School conducted their own demonstration on Friday in full view of the press at the 90-year-old private school.
Bangor High Principal Paul Butler cited security concerns as the reason for barring journalists or other outsiders from entering the public school.
Police and school staff were told to turn away anyone attempting to access the property between 10 a.m. and 10:17 a.m., the same period of time during which tens of thousands of students took part in a national walkout two days earlier. The exact number of minutes was intended to memorialize each of the 17 victims killed during a Feb. 14 shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The Bangor Daily’s story includes a photo of one end of the drive leading to Bangor High blocked by a police vehicle, orange traffic cones, and a pair of officers.
Bangor School Department Superintendent Betsy Webb said staff would have been unable to oversee students if the protest became a public event.
“To make sure that it was a safe environment and to let students totally lead and organize their efforts, we made the decision not to let visitors, outside organizations, and media on school property,” Webb said.
But at John Bapst, Head of School Mel MacKay said students were given a choice during an assembly on Friday whether they wanted to demonstrate it outside.
A gathering of around 75 students exited the building and stood on the stone steps and on the sidewalk in front of the school while holding signs with messages including, “My Words Speak Louder Than My Age” and “I Want To Worry About My GPA Not My DOA. #Enough”.
The two high schools are located two-and-a-half miles from each other on the same street in the city of approximately 32,000 people.
In addition to making their views public with the walkout and their hand-written signs, the John Bapst students spoke to media outlets.
“Youth voices matter,” protest organizer Emma O’Connor told Fox Bangor. “And we want to show Congress, by all the schools in the area demonstrating, that all the way up in Maine we still care about gun violence. And a lot of youth voices want to be heard on this issue.”
Julia Bate, another demonstrator, said the live news footage of teenagers fleeing from Stoneman Douglas while a gunman killed students inside made her emotional “because it could be any of us.”
Bate added that despite her age, she wants her voice to be heard by lawmakers who will decide whether to enact stricter gun measures.
“I can’t vote yet. But I can stand up for what I believe in,” Bate said. “I walked out today to show Congress that something needs to be done.”