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High school principal writes letter to parents

Editor’s Note: This is the text of a letter posted on the Forest Grove School District website Friday, May 20, by Forest Grove High School Principal Karen O’Neill.

Dear Parents,

I am writing to provide you with accurate information about the events of the past two days.

As you are aware, there was an incident at FGHS on Wednesday where two students hung a “Build A Wall” banner in the cafeteria during lunch time. The banner was removed within minutes, and the students have been disciplined. On Thursday morning, about 300 students staged a peaceful walk-out in protest of racial and discriminatory acts and comments. They walked from FGHS to the district administration office where they spoke with district leaders, then returned to the high school. They were joined by a group of students from Hillsboro School District as well as some community members.

Today there were reports of a threat made against the high school. We located the source of that threat, and it was determined to be unfounded. Classes were conducted as usual.

We did cancel a school carnival and student dance that was scheduled for tonight. This decision was made as a precaution in light of the high emotions of the past two days and social media references to acts of violence. We regret having to cancel, but safety of students and staff is always our priority.

The events of this week have put Forest Grove High School into the news in a way that we would not choose. However, we do believe it is an opportunity to bring students, staff, parents and community together to address an important issue. As a school and as a district, we do not tolerate racism, discrimination or other hurtful behaviors. We also ask that assumptions not be made about students who chose to participate and those who did not.

We have invited students who are concerned about these issues to join with “Student Voices For Equity,” a student group which meets after school. About 65 students attended this meeting Thursday, along with Superintendent Yvonne Curtis, School Board Chair Lonnie Winkler, advisor Dawn Nelson, myself and several staff members and assistant principals. This is a place where they can voice their concerns and work for solutions.

We appreciate students’ stand against racism, discrimination and disrespectful behavior. We also respect students’ right to freedom of speech. We strive to balance both of these with keeping students safe and in school. We are communicating to students how important it is to respect student choice regarding yesterday’s walkout, as well as other respectful forms of communicating their beliefs and opinions.

Moving forward, our priorities will continue to be providing a welcoming place where students are safe, feel respected and can achieve academic and personal excellence as they prepare for college or the work world. We are also working as a district to improve parent communication during and following events such as these. Thank you for your help through this, and please accept our sincere apologies for neglecting to send this communication out yesterday.


Karen O’Neill