2018-03-02 / Front Page

Getting involved

Cape students stand with others country-wide
By Michael Kelley
Staff Writer

Christie Gillies, Anthony Inhorn and Tory McGrath are organizing an event at Cape Elizabeth High School March 14 to coincide with the National Walk Out, an effort to encourage the government to adopt stronger policies to keep guns out of schools in order to keep students and staff safer. (Michael Kelley photo) Christie Gillies, Anthony Inhorn and Tory McGrath are organizing an event at Cape Elizabeth High School March 14 to coincide with the National Walk Out, an effort to encourage the government to adopt stronger policies to keep guns out of schools in order to keep students and staff safer. (Michael Kelley photo) CAPE ELIZABETH – While they go to school 2,000 miles away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Cape Elizabeth High School junior Tory McGrath and seniors Christie Gillies and Anthony Inhorn can’t help but feel for the school community, which is trying to bounce back from a Feb. 14 school shooting that left 17 students and teachers dead.

The possibility of that happening in Cape Elizabeth hit home Monday, Feb. 26 when a 17-year-old Cape Elizabeth student was arrested and charged with terrorizing after posting disturbing commentary on Snapchat the day before. School was canceled the following day as a result.

To raise awareness about gun violence in schools, Gillies, Inhorn and McGrath are organizing a local version of the National School Walkout March 14 to demand Congress to pass legislation that will protect people from gun violence at their schools, neighborhoods and other places of gathering.

According to the event page, “Students and staff have the right to teach and learn in an environment free from the worry of being gunned down in their classrooms or on their way home from school. Parents have the right to send their kids to school in the mornings and see them home alive at the end of the day. Congress must take meaningful action to keep us safe and pass federal gun reform legislation that address the public health crisis of gun violence.”

As part of the effort, Gillies and McGrath are encouraging classmates to wear orange and meet at the turf field at 10 a.m. for a 17-minute rally.

“Seeing the students on the news struck me,” Gillies said. “I thought we could do something here. Why not us? Why not get involved?”

Gillies said “it is not right we live in a society where the fire alarm goes off” and students don’t know if they should proceed outside like they do with fire drills or worry there is a gunman inside the school and try to find a place to hide.

Inhorn, the president of Peace Jam, an activism group at the high school, thought the event would be a perfect one for Peace Jam to get involved with.

“It really appealed to me because I share the same concerns Christie is talking about. The motto of the club is to promote peace and this was a project that spread that idea. I thought it was a perfect fit,” he said.

While she, Gillies and Inhorn are organizing the event, McGrath said the topic of gun safety in the schools is one of the minds of many of her fellow high school students.

“I know a lot of kids in the school are passionate about this. A lot of people reached out to us, saying they wanted to do something like this, but didn’t know how,” she said. McGrath said she was approached by a student from Brewer High School about how to organize a walkout in her community.

Similar events are planned at a number of schools in southern Maine, including Gorham High School, Wells High School, South Portland High School, Westbrook Middle School, Falmouth High School, Yarmouth High School, Brunswick High School, Lewiston High School, Edward Little High School in Auburn, Bonny Eagle High School in Standish, Casco Bay High School in Portland, Waynflete School in Portland, Marshwood High School in South Berwick and Thornton Academy in Saco.

“Even though we haven’t really talked (to organizers from other schools) it feels like we are all together in this,” Gillies said.

Gillies said the goal of Cape Elizabeth’s event is to “empower people and honor the victims” of the shooting in Parkland, Florida and the make sure it stays non-partisan.

“We really want to bring together our community and reach out to everybody, parents, teachers, students, anyone. We want to make it much more than a walkout,” she said.

Inhorn said at the event, the names of the victims in Florida will be read aloud and there will be speeches and possibly music. Gillies said she has reached out to the Maine Gun Safety Coalition to participate. She said there is a lot of fit in to the 17-minute window.

The school administration, particularly Cape Elizabeth Principal Jeff Shedd, has been supportive of the students’ efforts.

“From the start he has been very supportive,” Inhorn said of Shedd, who has offered to rework the school schedule that day to accommodate the event.

In an email to the Sentry, Shedd said the school’s administration is “in the early stages of working with students to define what the 14th will look like.”

Gillies, Inhorn and McGrath know the passion for gun safety in schools should not end with the Cape Elizabeth walkout. Gillies encourages community members to take part in March for Our Lives, a nation-wide march that is set to take place all across the country, including in Congress Square Park Portland, on March 24, as well as stay informed about on gun issues and proposed bills in Augusta, including LD 1761, An Act Regarding the Prohibition on the Possession of a Firearm on School Property, which would allow parents to, according to the bill summary “possess a firearm in a motor vehicle as long as the person is dropping off or picking up a student and remains in the vehicle.” Furthermore, the firearm must not be loaded and be in a locked container or locked firearms rack. A work session on the proposal was scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 28. There are also proposed bills that have to so with exempting hunter safety courses for certain individuals who have completed firearms safety courses, which had a public hearing and work session this week.

Inhorn said another good way to put words into action is to stay engaged.

“I think it is important for young people to be involved politically. A lot of our high school is not voting age yet, but once you turn 18 it is important to vote because you will be choosing people who will advocate for policies you believe in. It’s about being educated, being informed,” he said.

Staff Writer Michael Kelley can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 237.

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