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Hilhi, other schools see students march in solidarity
Fueled by #standupFG rallies, students in Hillsboro follow suit
Several hundred Hillsboro High School students walked out of class Thursday morning, May 19 to stand in solidarity with Forest Grove High School students, who staged their own walkout in protest of what they perceive as ongoing racial prejudice and tensions in their school.
The walkout was sparked by an inflammatory banner that appeared briefly inside Forest Grove High School Wednesday, May 18, proclaiming Build a Wall, a reference to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trumps vow to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Although the slogan technically refers to keeping out undocumented immigrants, it has become shorthand for a general prejudice against and suspicion of Latinos. Some Latino students at FGHS say they are often still referred to as Mexicans at the school, even if theyre American citizens.
The Build A Wall sign followed a number of other race-related incidents at FGHS which have been happening for years, some students say, but only began coming to light recently following an incident when a student yelled a racial slur in a black teachers classroom.
Students at Glencoe and Liberty high schools in Hillsboro also staged walkouts on May 19 and other schools across Washington County joined in the movement by holding rallies of their own.
Some high school students from Hillsboro went to Forest Grove to join in the march there. Hillsboros assistant superintendent Travis Reiman attended the Forest Grove rally, said district spokeswoman Beth Graser. Were responsible for student safety, Graser said. We wanted to make sure we were being supportive to the Forest Grove (school district) administration.
Twitter was full of posts last week under #StandUpFG, which student organizers used to spread the word of the walkouts.
At Hilhi, about 200 students marched peacefully outside the school and around the parking lot for about an hour, holding signs that said, Build Love, Not Walls and No Human is Illegal.
The predominantly Latino student crowd who participated stayed on campus, although a few groups appeared to leave the school.
Its making a difference. Give yourselves a round of applause, Hilhi student Steve Ruiz, addressing the crowd on a megaphone.
This is more than just about Latinos, said senior Paulina Castro.
This is about black people, poor people, the disabled community. Were standing (up) for all the injustices were faced with, she told the crowd, who answered with cheers.
Hillsboro School District administrators said they encouraged students to stay in class and find another way of expressing their concerns.
Hillsboro School District Superintendent Mike Scott, who was at Hillsboro High School during the hour-long walkout, said no specific permission was given to students by the district or the schools administrators to stage the walkout. Were facilitating student safety, Scott said.
Hilhi assistant principal Peter Muilenburg indicated permission to walkout had not been asked for or given to students and that he became aware of the walkout plans early last Thursday morning. I woke up to this, he said, while walking alongside the demonstrating students.
Graser said the students who participated in the walkouts but stayed on campus would not be disciplined for missing class, but students who left the school campus would be charged with an unexcused absence.
We wanted to address this in a consistent way, Graser said. A message was posted to the district website at 9:20 a.m. the morning of the planned protests.
We are supportive of students right to freedom of expression; however, there is a balance to strike between honoring that right and keeping students safe and in school, the notice says.
We encourage students to remain in class, have a discussion about their concerns and come up with alternate ways to express their support of students in Forest Grove.
The same message was sent out to parents via automated phone calls.