'Half' of Lake Oswego students protest 'racial incident'

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) --- Many students at Lake Oswego Jr. High School peacefully gathered on the lawn as a way to protest after a "racial incident" happened at the school.

Starting at 9 a.m., students started to rally near the school's 7th-grade classrooms in response to the Jan. 26 incident in which a Post-it containing the words  "n****r dog" was passed to 13-year-old Christiaan Bedford.

Dakota Webb, a fellow student at the school, said she's friends with Bedford.

"It felt terrible to know that our best friend was going through the same stuff as us," she said, "and almost to a worse extent because (it) was written on a note and handed to him, saying 'This is what you are. This is what's wrong with you.' After the kids were like, 'Oh, it's just a joke.' It's not a joke."

The student who passed the note received a one-day suspension, several sources told KOIN 6 News media partner The Lake Oswego Review, and two other students were given in-school detentions.

Students said they're taking a stand against racism of all forms and that the "N" word or any racial slur won't be tolerated. 

"We are out here because we want it to be known that what is going on at Lake Oswego Jr. High School is not okay," student Ajialia McClure said. "We have been through so much trauma, we are overly stressed out, overly overwhelmed. We don't know how to cope with this, so we're making it public." 

The school is hosting a couple of forums for parents and students this month. They're scheduled for Feb. 13th -- the time hasn't been determined -- and Feb. 26 at 9:30 a.m. Both will be at the junior high school.  

McClure and Webb said they've been the target of racially motivated bullying. They said it's been happening for way too long.

"We are being called names that are unacceptable," said McClure. "I've had my hair pulled. I've been stabbed with pencils."

"I've been hit in the face," interjected Webb. 

McClure followed: "(Webb) has had a concussion and nobody was informed. It's a very tedious process and it's very, very annoying."

Some parents, students and community members said the punishment wasn't enough and the district isn't doing enough to combat racism. However, the district said they are taking this situation very seriously.

Principal Sara Deboy released a statement on the school's blog saying,

"I have found that when these words are used, the students have a hard time explaining their intent – they may claim it was meant as a joke, they did not connect the word to the meaning, etc I believe them. That is why it is on all of us as the adults in their lives to help them understand how we cannot allow these words to be part of jokes or allow them to be thrown around as if they had no meaning. These words have power."

 

Lake Oswego School District official Christine Moses held a press conference Monday afternoon where she said the district was "proud of our students who have the courage to stand up for justice." She estimated that about half of the students participated in the walkout.

She continued that the district must "do better" for the students.

"Lake Oswego needs to learn from this incident and move forward," Moses said. "Racism is a learned behavior, if we are going to change beliefs and behaviors, it must be from an educational stance."


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