Students in Gresham, Troutdale walk out of class
Hundreds of students at Gresham, Barlow, Centennial and Reynolds high schools participated in a nationwide school walkout Wednesday to mark the one month anniversary of the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla.
Students walked out for 17 minutes at 10 a.m. March 14, respectfully paying tribute to the 17 people killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A former student has been charged with 17 murders.
At Reynolds High School, which had its own school shooting in 2014, the students stood silently for 17 minutes, some with heads bowed.
Morning showers abated and the sun even appeared momentarily as they gathered next to Reynolds High in Columbia Park.
Some Reynolds students held small signs with pictures of student activists from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a quote from one of them that said "don't lie to us, don't make anymore false promises because when you do, children die."
Divine Robertson, a 17 year-old junior and an organizer of the Reynolds event said itt was meant "to give a statement to everyone out in the world...that we're not accepting that there are school shootings and that schools aren't keeping kids safe like they should."
She said she also wanted to say "sorry to all the parents and families that had people die in a school shooting."
Several hundred students walked out of the front doors of Gresham High School promptly at 10 a.m., taking up posters showing the names and faces of people killed in school shootings across the United States.
Walkout organizer Citlaly Arroyo, a senior at Gresham High, instructed the somber crowd to silently and respectfully observe a minute of silence for each person killed in the mass shooting in Parkland.
"Seventeen students and adults that aren't going to experience the feeling of graduating, getting their acceptance letter into college, having kids or getting married, or even growing old," Arroyo said. "Today is dedicated to those angels who lost their lives too early."
One by one, students held up posters containing the name of a person killed in Parkland and a moment of silence was observed for all 17.
And as quietly and as respectfully as it started, the Gresham High students returned to their classes.
At Barlow High School, about 175 students walked out to the football field for 17 minutes of silence. Every minute, a different student held up a handwritten sign with one of the names of the students killed in the Parkland shooting.
At the end, Barlow junior Jenny Bordine, who helped organize the event, said the students of Barlow stand in solidarity with Parkland.
"This is going to be the change, we are going to be the change," Bordine said. "Today I stand here with hope."
The districts said they would not discipline the students, but students would be marked absent if they missed more than a specific number of minutes of class for the walkouts.
Administrators at Centennial High School estimated that about one-third of the student body participated in the day's protest.
Many of the young people in the crowd said they worried about their own safety while sitting in class or walking the halls.
"We deserve to be safe at school," said junior Timothy Fu during the walk-out in front of the school's main entrance. "(Right now), we are definitely not safe. But fighting for my rights, it's really a big difference."
"I worry a lot about my safety at this high school, because we have very little security," added Kasandra Wickstrom, who opposes arming educators. "I think that it's not OK to have guns at school."
The senior said Centennial only has one school resource officer posted by the Gresham Police Department, as well as a handful of hired security guards.
From a perch on the base of the school's flagpole, Jade Wilson recited the names of the students slain in Florida and gave a short speech highlighting many recent school shootings, including those at Reynolds High School and Umpqua Community College.
"When does the list end? The answer is today," the junior and Associated Student Body historian cried. "Fear has no place in our school, or any school!"
As at the other schools, Centennial administrators monitored the protesters from nearby, but did not participate or interfere.
"Our students organized themselves," noted Centennial Principal Mairi Scott-Aguirre. "I'm proud that they organized themselves, but it's not a school function."
At 10:17, the pupils put away their cell phones and signs and quietly walked back into the building.
The protest shows "that us teenagers can have a say, not just adults or teachers," commented Fu.
The school shooting issue is particularly meaningful at Reynolds High because the school also suffered a school shooting. On June 10, 2014 a Reynolds High School student killed 14-year-old freshman Emilio Hoffman and wounded physical education teacher Todd Rispler in an attack at the school. The student gunman committed suicide in a restroom as law enforcement closed in on him.
Linda Florence, superintendent of the Reynolds School District said she was impressed with "how respectful the students are, working with the administration to do it appropriately and to make sure everyone is safe." She watched with other administrators as the Reynolds students gathered in the Park.
After the 17 minutes of silence, the Reynolds students marched back to class, shouting "gun control now."
--Reporters Teresa Carson, Christopher Keizur, Zane Sparling and editor Steve Brown contributed to this news story.