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Hillsboro school administrators react to student walkouts

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Hilhi students march in solidarity with Forest Grove High students. An estimated 1,000 students marched in Forest Grove today to call attention racial tensions within the school.Hillsboro School District administrators were alerted to the student walkouts at Hillsboro, Glencoe and Liberty high schools early this morning and promptly sent out a notification to parents.

A notice was posted on the district website at 9:20 a.m. Thursday morning notifying parents that students at Hillsboro’s high schools were planning a walkout in solidarity with Forest Grove High School students.

Forest Grove students planned the walkout via social media — under the hashtag #StandupFG — overnight Wednesday in protest of racial tensions within the school.

Students at Hillsboro, Glencoe and Liberty high school staged walkouts about 9:45 a.m., according to Hillsboro School District spokeswoman Beth Graser.

“We are supportive of students’ rights 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, with one additional piece of information: “Media has been alerted to this event; however, we will keep them off campus.”

Hillsboro School District Superintendent Mike Scott, who was at Hillsboro High School during the hour-long walkout there said no specific permission was given to students by the district or the school administrators to stage the walkout. “We’re 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 Thursday morning. “I woke up to this,” he said, while walking alongside the demonstrating students.

Graser said the students who did walk out of class today and 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 (across schools),” Graser said.

Ultimately, she added, the schools’ biggest concern is student safety.

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