Portland students walk out to protest school resource officers

Some Portland Public Schools students are planning a walkout on Jan. 2, 2018. They're protesting school resource officers. KATU photo

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Public School students walked out of class Wednesday to protest school resource officers, or SROs.

Students from a half-dozen Portland Public Schools planned to walk out of class at 9 a.m. to make their voices heard. About a dozen and a half students showed up for the protest. One student read a statement to the crowd.

"Today is the day that Jo Ann Hardesty is sworn in, so hopefully if we can get this out on the same day, it'll gain a little bit of traction," Sophia Lucas, a senior at Jefferson High School, said before giving the speech.

Lucas added that the goal is to "raise the brows of a couple of board members."

In December, the Portland Public School Board approved an agreement to put SROs on campus more often, Monday through Friday instead of just four days a week.

The agreement means Portland Public Schools will help fund the school police officers. The district has not been paying for them for the past 20 years.

It’s now up to Portland city commissioners to approve the decision. The protesting students are asking commissioners to cut back on SROs in schools.

Lucas made that point clear in her speech, saying, "We as PPS students are extremely disappointed in the school board's actions and believe that police do not have a place in our schools."

Lucas said SROs make students feel unsafe, contribute to discrimination in school and their presence can lead to hostile and unsafe school environments.

"Stationing police officers in schools will further contribute to an environment of fear and distrust," Lucas said.

The speech was a collaborative effort. "We were working on it up until 1 o'clock in the morning last night, um, you know, there were probably like six or seven students all working and editing," Amelia Ernst, a senior at Grant High School, said.

In an effort to spread awareness of their campaign, the students also created the YouTube account called “No SROs PDX” and just Wednesday morning, they published a new video.

In it, one student says, “I feel like it’s taking away funding from things that could actually increase a safe environment, like psychologists and therapists.”

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