BOULDER, Colorado - At least 85 students worried about war, a return of the draft and the future of the environment staged an overnight protest in the Boulder High School library before leaving peacefully Friday morning.
The students said they wanted assurances from political leaders about the direction of the country. Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., met with some of the students for about an hour after they left the library at 7 a.m.
''We're worried that in four years we're going to be at war with five countries and we're going to have no trees,'' senior Cameron Ely-Murdock said.
''I know that's an extreme position, but I'm really worried about the draft,'' he said.
President Bush and other administration officials have repeatedly said they have no plans to reinstate a draft, despite concerns about the number of troops needed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Principal Ron Cabrera agreed to let the students spend the night in the library if they would leave in time for Friday morning classes, which they did. A handful of teachers and parents stayed with them.
''It's become a really large learning event about civics and having a political voice. And you can't beat that,'' Cabrera said.
The sit-in began after school Thursday. The students, who brought sleeping bags and food, said they were not protesting Bush's re-election but were worried about the national debt, Iraq and other issues.
''People are deciding stuff that's going to affect us, and we didn't have a say in it,'' said Maisie Salinger, 15, a freshman with a peace sign painted on her face.
The students said they wanted to talk to representatives of GOP Gov. Bill Owens and U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo. Musgrave sponsored the failed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.
Spokesmen for Owens and Musgrave said neither received a request to speak to the students.
''It's good to see that the concerned students are using their right to speak out,'' Musgrave spokesman Aaron Johnson said. ''That's what is protected by the Constitution.''
Boulder County Republican Party vice chairman Bill Eckert met with some students.
''They have every right to have their voices heard,'' he said. ''But their views are based on a lack of information and knowledge, and I think we owe it to them to help alleviate their fears.''
© 2004 Associated Press