A vocal crowd of more than 100 students walked out of Vancouver school district campuses on Monday, marching down Fourth Plain Boulevard and through downtown Vancouver to demonstrate in solidarity with minority students and immigrants.
The shouting crowd of students, most of whom were from Fort Vancouver High School Center for International Studies, left class early afternoon to protest the Trump administration’s rhetoric and actions on immigration and admittance of refugees to the United States. The march began just hours after President Donald Trump signed a new version of an executive order suspending visitors or immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries. The order also temporarily shuts down the U.S. refugee program.
Students also said they were calling on the district to issue a letter to parents reassuring them that school is a safe space for students and that the district will protect students from immigration officials who might try to enter the school.
Counted as truant
District spokeswoman Pat Nuzzo said the district is working on writing and translating a letter for release in the coming days. Nuzzo said the district is responding to concerns shared by students as well as parents in issuing the letter, but noted that under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, the district cannot provide details about a student’s immigration status or other private information to any law enforcement official without a warrant.
“There has to be some legal cause,” Nuzzo said. “In that way we’ve always been protecting our students. That’s true no matter what.”
The district does not and cannot support student walkouts and will count the students as truant for the periods they missed, said Nuzzo, adding that the district has known about the students’ planned demonstration for about a week.
However, Nuzzo said the district supports students’ right to demonstrate and will talk to students about other, school-sanctioned ways they can express their concerns about the safety of minority students.
“We support our students’ right to express their views,” she said. “They just want their voice to be heard.”
Student demonstrators wound down to Jantzen Beach before returning to their respective campuses. Waving a slew of flags, both American and international, students chanted and waved at honking drivers. Some shot selfies with their friends, while others live-streamed the rally on their Facebook pages.
“Show me what America looks like!” a leader shouted at the students as they approached the intersection of Fort Vancouver Way and East Mill Plain Boulevard.
“We are what America looks like!” the crowd shouted back, waving signs expressing support for immigrants, Muslim, gay and transgender people and others.
Alex Robles, an 18-year-old senior who helped organize the rally, said students are concerned about the state of the country since the election, mentioning Trump’s immigration executive order.
“We’re just trying to raise awareness that we care for other people,” Robles said.
Nayeli Adame, a 17-year-old senior who also organized the walkout, held a sign adorned with flags that read “United We Stand.”
Adame said she’s been worried for her safety since the election, saying the results prove “America is still racist.” She said the school district needs to do more to help protect students and make them feel safe during uncertain times.
She added that she hopes the demonstration will show the school district and public the that student voices should be taken seriously.
“We are the future,” Adame said. “I feel like we should start shaping what we want our future to look like.”