Parents upset after impromptu student protest at middle school

Students take to the streets of Portland on Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. (KATU Photo)

Jason Durnil was texting his 12-year-old son on Friday morning as Ockley Green Middle School students took part in an unplanned off-campus march. It came after they heard from an activist about a Black Lives Matter art project.

"A big protest had started, that he’s OK, that everything’s fine. So we were just kind of chatting back and forth trying to figure out what happened," Durnil said.

The all-student assembly started at 9:15 a.m., with students slated to return to their classrooms afterward. But instead, the activist walked out following the 15-minute speech, asking students to follow, and a huge throng of students did.

Ockley Green principal Paula McCollough sent a notice to parents Friday explaining that students walked out and followed a nearly two-mile path past the Portland Police Bureau's North Precinct, Jefferson High School and Portland Community College Cascade campus before returning to Ockley Green.

Durnil and other parents took to social media to express frustration with what they perceived as a school offering students a biased view of current events.

"It was planned, it was organized, and it was incited, is how it feels to me, and I don’t appreciate our educators pushing agendas that fit their view only," Durnil said.

Portland Public Schools told KATU this was not a sanctioned field trip, and in her statement, McCullough said the protest was not organized or condoned by Ockley Green administrators.

Durnil says he wants his son to see all points of view, and he would have been fine with his son attending Friday's march as long as parents would have been notified first so they could talk to their kids about the issues involved.

"I want him to be able to form his own ideas, but I want him to be able to form it with all the information available," Durnil said.

Letter sent to Ockley Green Middle School parents:

Dear Ockley Green community,
We had an unannounced and unorganized protest by our students this morning, and I wanted to make sure you had information about it.
At 9:15 a.m. today, students gathered in the auditorium for a schoolwide 15-minute assembly to hear an activist discuss a community art project related to Black Lives Matter, with the understanding that students would return to class when the presentation was over.
The activist then walked outside and asked students to follow, and many of them did. Teachers and one administrator followed to help ensure student safety. The group then marched to Portland Police Bureau’s North Precinct. The march proceeded to Jefferson High School, past Portland Community College and back to Ockley Green. Portland Police officers sent officers and patrol cars to escort the students, block streets, and keep everyone safe.
The protest was not organized or condoned by Ockley Green administrators or Portland Public Schools.
We are proud of our students for taking an interest in current events involving the community as well as our larger society. However, we want students and staff to know that there are more appropriate ways to organize an event. If we work together, we can ensure student safety and minimize disruption to the school while still honoring students’ voices.

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