Students and parents held a rally outside Ockley Green Middle School Monday in support of a social studies teacher that was placed on leave.
Last month, Portland Public Schools confirmed that teacher Chris Riser was placed on leave but wouldn't say precisely why. The announcement came after an unauthorized walkout where hundreds of students left school for several hours.
The rally on Monday began at 8:30 a.m. outside of the school and continued for several hours. It involved students, parents, and community activist with Don't Shoot Portland and Black Lives Matter.
The protesters feel that Riser should have never been placed on leave, and now they worry he could be suspended or fired and they want him reinstated.
Riser wasplaced on leave
right before spring break, but the incident he was involved in happened on Feb. 9. where an assembly was held at Ockley Green involving Don't Shoot Portland. Quanice Hayes, a teen shot and killed by Portland police last year, was discussed at the assembly.
A parent activist told FOX 12 that Riser decided to walk with the community activists after the assembly to the Portland Police Bureau's North Precinct office.
Several hundred students followed in an unauthorized protest, which school officials say was also dangerous. They say the "students were directed to lie down in a busy and active intersection as part of a "die-in.""
Some of the students who supported Riser on Monday were also part of the February walkout.
"We followed after him and it turned into a Black Lives Matters protest," said Harmony Mahoney, 7th grader at Ockley Green Middle School. "(The die-in) was to make a statement. I don't think it was necessarily dangerous, there were like 400 kids there so I think we were safe."
"Several hundred students on February 9 left the building without permission, without authorization, without a plan to account for their whereabouts, their safety. It was unsupervised. And they were gone for two hours and they covered three miles, and it included staging a die-in on one of Portland’s busiest streets, where cars sometimes travel up to 40 miles per hour and they lay down on Martin Luther King Boulevard," said Dave Northfield, Director of Media Relations at PPS.
Students say they will keep demonstrating until Riser returns to the classroom.
The school district stopped short of saying Riser led the February walkout, but said that while other teachers also accompanied the students, those teachers were only there to make sure the kids were safe. They did not include Riser in that group of teachers.
Shortly after he was placed on leave, a Change.org petition was started to help get Riser back in the classroom. As of Monday morning, more than 4,000 people had signed the petition.
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