PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Parents of children attending The Cottonwood School of Civics and Science are calling for an end to the use of chemical weapons used near the Immigration and Customs Enforcement during protests.
Students are slated to return to school for the first time in a year for hybrid learning but won’t be able to use the playground area because of some munitions like pepper balls landing in the area.
“There’s both chemical weapons and munitions you can see and then there’s concern for what you can’t see, like contamination that has seeped into the playground soil,” said Kate Sharaf, a parent of a student who attends the school.
This isn’t the first time parents and staff have raised concerns. In a January interview with KOIN 6 News, Cottonwood School director Amanda McAdoo their schoolyard has been enveloped in tear gas clouds during recent protests against ICE.
“We need them to stop using chemical weapons in front of our school,” she said.
Parents said they’ve been organizing to pressure the Department of Homeland Security to stop using chemical weapons in the South Waterfront neighborhood altogether. They call themselves “Cottonwood School Parents for a Chemical Weapon Free Neighborhood.”
The school is a tuition free K-8 public charter school, dedicated to helping students develop a sense of place and become stewards of the natural world.
Parents said they have also gotten local state and elected officials, including Sen. Ron Wyden to write letters to DHS demanding they halt using chemical weapons in the neighborhood. They’re also asking for more information on what chemicals have already been used. So far, DHS has not responded to their inquiries.
Sharaf said they haven’t heard anything from DHS yet, which worries her.
“I can’t believe I have to fight my own government to try to stop them from using chemical weapons at my kid’s school,” she said.
The parents turned activists have also been working Reach Community Development, across the street from the school. They said residents Reach housing community, Gray’s Landing, have been acutely impacted by the clashes between protesters and federal offices outside the ICE building.