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Hilhi, other schools see students march in solidarity

Fueled by #standupFG rallies, students in Hillsboro follow suit


HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - About 200 Hilhi students marched in solidarity with Forest Grove High students May 19 by holding their own rally on the Hilhi campus.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 Trump’s 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 they’re 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 teacher’s classroom.HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Signs at Hillsboro High School rally said things like 'Give us Chicano studies' and 'Build love not walls!'

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. Hillsboro’s assistant superintendent Travis Reiman attended the Forest Grove rally, said district spokeswoman Beth Graser. “We’re 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.

“It’s 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. HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Students gathered outside the Hilhi gymnasium building and heard messages from student leaders. 'It's making a difference. Give yourselves a round of applause,' said one student.

“This is about black people, poor people, the disabled community. We’re standing (up) for all the injustices we’re 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 school’s 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 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.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - Students gathered outside the Hilhi gymnasium building and heard messages from student leaders. 'It's making a difference. Give yourselves a round of applause,' said one student.

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: KATHY FULLER - About 200 Hilhi students marched in solidarity with Forest Grove High students May 19 by holding their own rally on the Hilhi campus.

COURTESY PHOTO - About 15 students from Glencoe High marched all the way to Forest Grove High School May 19 to show their support. When they arrived and were not allowed on campus, they decided to stay and await the end of the school day.

COURTESY PHOTO - Glencoe sophomores Grace Simantel and Laura Parrett display the slogans of the day on their arms -- 'Walls Aren't Freedom' and 'Build Love, Not Walls.'