Students protest White House immigration policies at Liberty, Glencoe, Hillsboro high schools and South Meadows Middle School

HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: GEOFF PURSINGER - Students protest outside South Meadows Middle School on Friday, one of a handful of protests in Hillsboro schools. At Liberty High School, 200 students staged a sit-in.Students at four Hillsboro schools walked out of class on Friday, protesting anti-immigration policies by the U.S. government.

On Friday, Feb. 17, about 200 Liberty High School students participated in a sit-in in the school's commons. Across town, more than a dozen students marched out of class at South Meadows Middle School.

According to Beth Graser, students at South Meadows and Liberty, Glencoe and Hillsboro high schools staged protests on Friday as well.

Daniela Rodriguez, 14, who organized the South Meadows walkout, said young students are just as passionate about national politics as adults are.

"All you hear are the voices of adults, but it's important to show that we have a voice, too, and we want to be heard," Rodriguez said.

At South Meadows, middle and high school students chanted and waved handmade signs at passing cars as parents picked up students.

Eighth-grade students Rodriguez and Lizbeth Chavez, 13, organized the South Meadows protest.

"We have been planning this for over a month," Chavez said.

Chavez said school administrators told the students that the protest wasn't necessary, as students in the school are protected by a state law which forbids district staff from working with immigration officials to deport undocumented students.

"They said that everyone is protected here, but students here don't know that they are protected," Chavez said. "We want students to know that we are here for them. They aren't alone. We've all been there, scared that our parents will be taken away from us."

Several protests have been held across the Portland area since President Donald Trump took office a month ago.

Earlier this month, Trump called for federal funding to be pulled from so-called "sanctuary cities" that protect undocumented immigrants.

The protests came the same day the Associated Press reported the Trump administration was considering using 100,000 National Guard troops as part of a national deportation force to remove undocumented immigrants from the country. That report was quickly denied by the White House.

At the Liberty High School sit-in, Superintendent Mike Scott met with students about their concerns.

According to Graser, schools alerted parents whose children left class, and students were marked as absent.

"Because they remained on school grounds, I don't believe they will face disciplinary action," Graser said.

Chavez, who stayed home from school on Thursday as part of a national boycott called the "Day without Immigrants," said it was important for people of all ages to stand up for what they believe in.

"We want our teachers to know what we're trying to stand for, and what we are trying to tell everybody."

Graser said the district works to ensure that students are able to express their First Amendment right to protest, while maintaining a functional school day.

"We understand students' frustration and concern about the federal stance on immigration and what that might mean for themselves and their family members," Graser told The Tribune on Friday. "We also have an obligation to educate all students.

"Our hope is that we can collaborate with students to ensure they have the information and support they need to feel safe and ready to learn, and that advocacy activities can take place outside of school hours."

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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Follow Geoff Pursinger at @reportergeoff

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