Portland middle school teacher placed on leave due to role in st - KPTV - FOX 12

Portland middle school teacher placed on leave due to role in student walkout

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Image of the Feb. 9 student walkout (Courtesy: Denice McMillin) Image of the Feb. 9 student walkout (Courtesy: Denice McMillin)
PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

A Portland teacher has been placed on leave due to his role in a student walkout in February. 

Portland Public Schools confirmed that Ockley Green Middle School teacher Chris Riser was put on leave. A spokesman for the district said they were not able to speak to the type of leave.  

A Change.org petition is being circulated to help get Riser back in the classroom. As of Sunday evening, more than 1,300 people had signed the petition.

The walkout occurred on Feb. 9 in support of the family of Quanice Hayes, according to the petition. Hayes, 17, was shot and killed by a Portland police officer on Feb. 9, 2017. 

School officials sent out a letter Friday to Ockley Green families, saying they had completed a review of the incident. 

"Our review concludes that students were subjected to the risk of potentially severe harm because of unauthorized actions that were not in keeping with our obligation to ensure students’ safety at all times," officials wrote. 

According to the letter, students were led out of the school building after an assembly, despite instructions by school administrators to return students to their classrooms. 

During the walkout, students were directed to lie down on Northeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near Ainsworth Street as part of a "die-in."

In the letter, PPS officials said they support the students’ right to exercise free speech, to be involved in civic events and engage in political and social activism, but they have zero tolerance for students being placed in unsafe conditions. 

"This situation created an unacceptable level of risk to our students," they wrote. 

According to the petition to reinstate Riser, he is an "important presence to the students" at the school. 

"He is a strong voice for social justice, diversity and equality," the petition reads. "At a critical time when gun violence is rampant, Chris Riser is teaching the kids that their greatest weapon is their voice."

Here is the full text of the letter sent to Ockley Green parents: 

Dear Ockley Green community,

This is to let you know that we have completed a thorough review of the incident on February 9, during which students engaged in an unauthorized walkout. Our review concludes that students were subjected to the risk of potentially severe harm because of unauthorized actions that were not in keeping with our obligation to ensure students' safety at all times.

Students were led out of the school building after a school assembly, despite instructions by school administrators to return students to their respective classrooms. During the walkout, students were directed to lie down in a busy and active intersection as part of a "die-in." This resulted in a traffic back-up, and at one point the students had to move out of the way of an ambulance that crossed through the intersection. After leaving the intersection, students were instructed to block traffic by walking in the street. The walk covered three miles and lasted two hours before students returned to school.

Portland Public Schools supports our students' rights to exercise free speech, to become involved in civic events, and to engage in political and social activism. We have, however, zero tolerance for our students being placed in unsafe conditions. This situation created an unacceptable level of risk to our students. We are addressing the circumstances surrounding the walkout and lessons learned, and there is a personnel process in progress regarding the incident. The district is required to keep this process confidential. We will continue to do all we can to provide students with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment.

Paula McCullough, Principal
Karl Logan, Senior Director 

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