Woodburn students hold walkout in support of DREAM Act
About 100 Woodburn High School students participated in walkout on Wednesday morning in support of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the DREAM Act. The students left the high school at 10:30 a.m. and marched through downtown Woodburn before coming to the Woodburn School District office on Meridian Drive.
Students shouted chants including "Si se puede," "Up, up on education, down, down on deportation," and held up Mexican flags and handmade signs with phrases like "Why deport and not support DACA," "Ideology separates, dreams unite," and "We fight together."
The walkout's organizers say that many Woodburn students are living in fear as a result of President Donald Trump's announcement in September that his administration would repeal DACA, which provides a temporary protection from deportation to young adults who entered the country illegally as children. According to the organizers of the walkout, those fears haven't been properly addressed by the district's administration.
"A lot of students at the Woodburn High School are undocumented, and they don't have the support of the teachers or the district," said Ivan Bautista, a sophomore and one of the organizers of the walkout. Bautista said the students chose to walk out of class, rather than protest in another manner, because they wanted to get the attention of district officials.
"They wouldn't take us seriously if we did it outside of the high school," Bautista said. "They would simply ignore us."
The walkout took place on the same day that thousands of protestors rallied in Washington, D.C., to call upon Congress to pass the DREAM Act before the end of the year.
Bautista said walkouts are effective at increasing awareness. He said that he learned more about the issue from reading about other walkouts.
"People are getting aware because of things like this," Bautista said. "If it weren't for other walkouts, I wouldn't have been aware of it as well."
A similar walkout was planned to be held by Salem-Keizer School District students on Wednesday as well, with those students marching to the Oregon Capitol Building.
At the District Office, Bautista read an open letter to Superintendent Chuck Ransom, who has been out of the office since Dec. 1 and returns to work on Monday. The letter called upon Ransom to send a message to Rep. Greg Walden, Oregon's only Republican representative, to urge him to support the DREAM Act.
"Not passing the DREAM Act will have a serious effect on students at the Woodburn High School and community," the letter reads. "For this reason, we the students at the Woodburn High School have taken action. We hope you can send this letter as soon as possible."
UPDATE Dec. 7: District responds
Liz Loomis, the district's communications consultant, said the district is committed to protecting students.
"The Woodburn School District has done and will do everything it can to protect our students and provide them with a safe learning environment. Our school district passed a resolution Affirming Student Safety and the District's Mission in 2016 and it was reaffirmed in 2017," Loomis wrote in an email.
"We recognize the frustration that our students and community are feeling at the moment. Our student population and elected school board are representative of our community's position on the DREAM Act, and the need to build a greater understanding between diverse populations in this country," Loomis continued.
Loomis also wrote that the district will send a letter and call Walden, and will copy Rep. Kurt Schrader, who represents Woodburn, on that communication.
The absences of the students who missed class as the result of the walkout will be unexcused unless a parent or gaurdian calls to excuse the student, according to Jenne Marquez, the executive secretary to the superintendent.