Skyview High School students, parents and staff demonstrated Tuesday in support of school leadership and against anti-mask protesters who prompted a lockdown on Friday.
About a dozen students took up signs after school let out, ready to oppose protesters, including right-wing groups such as the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, who had lined the sidewalks in front of the high school last week.
Although those protesters did not return to the high school Tuesday, the students and parents said they plan to be back today or any other day the protesters return.
Some students described the fear they felt during the lockdown when, according to Vancouver Public Schools, about 12 people attempted to enter the high school Friday. Several said they felt school leadership made the right call to lock the doors and temporarily ban visitors.
“The first priority is to keep the kids safe,” Skyview junior Clara Hawkins said. “Even though it might have been scary, it was definitely the right decision. And for people claiming to be protecting children — that was the exact opposite. They were trying to get into our school. They were harassing us, and it was unbelievable the things they were saying.”
Vancouver Public Schools Superintendant Jeff Snell said the district was focused on the safety of students and staff when school officials decided to lock down the high school and neighboring Alki Middle School and Chinook Elementary School. He said the district has a strict protocol for people coming onto campuses, especially during COVID-19.
“Lockdowns are disruptive,” Snell said. “And we can’t have those disruptions. It’s been two years of disruptions.”
Snell said he works every day to manage the effects of the pandemic and those upset by the measures to keep COVID-19 from spreading in schools.
“I don’t think anyone wants to be in this situation, but we are in this situation,” he said. “And the students are watching us.”
Support for Skyview
Students described being harassed by the protesters Friday. Some said they were called racial or gay slurs as they were walking home from school. Snell said he had been told some students shouted at protesters, as well.
“We try to minimize those interactions and follow up on concerns or threats,” he said.
Hawkins said she could hear people shouting from the street while in class last week.
“It’s really been affecting the mental health and the morale of the school,” Hawkins said.
Some parents arrived at the school at 6:45 a.m. Tuesday and spent the day on the corner with signs reading, “Leave the kids alone” and “Support Skyview.” They said they came out to express support for the school and oppose any harassment of students.
Skyview junior Hanuri Kim said she wants her fellow students to feel safe at school, especially people of color, because protesters last week were using white supremacist symbols. She said she thinks Friday’s lockdown was the right call.
“I realize that people could have mixed opinions because it did cause a lot of panic and a lot of disruption in our school,” Kim said. “But at the end of the day, it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
Snell said more school resource officers have been assigned to Skyview to keep watch outside of the school while staff focuses on teaching students. Officials have also monitored social media chatter about protests.
Student Amaya Yoshinobu said it’s unfair that last week’s protesters made many students feel unsafe at school when there are online alternatives for students who can’t wear masks or oppose them.
Student Ariel Tanner said she texted friends to take up signs Tuesday afternoon to show Skyview’s values.
“A part of Skyview is leadership and positivity,” Tanner said.
A few teachers joined the students Tuesday, including an English teacher who said she wanted to show that threatening messages are not welcome at Skyview.
“What’s not debatable is people feeling safe and respected on the school campus,” she said.
Senior Dylan Walker has opposed the protesters each day since Thursday. He said he was doing it alone at first, but that it’s less nerve-wracking now that others have joined him.
“This is our school,” Walker said. “This is our turf. This is my education.”