GRANTS PASS, Ore. – Student after student, walking out of the Grants Pass High School front doors. Usually, they’re in class, but Tuesday hundreds of students left in the middle of 5th period showing support for LGBTQ+ students.
“We wanted to give these students that felt like they didn’t have a voice and they didn’t feel safe in this school. We wanted to feel the support. They’re coming out here being surrounded by hundreds of other students, I think people are coming out of this with a positive mentality,” said Evan Tucker, one of the student organizers.
This walk-out wasn’t random. Last week the Grants Pass School Board reversed its decision to fire a pair of controversial educators who’ve promoted the I Resolve Movement. The I Resolve movement asks local, state, and federal leaders to adopt several principles and policies, including that there are two anatomical gender presentations, male and female. The videos, circulating among the Grants Pass School District students saying it’s not right.
“It’s just purely transphobic. Not only that, but it’s against school policy to use the school’s equipment, which is why they were fired in the first place,” said Kylie LaBelle, Grants Pass High School student.
While the educators worked at a different school within the district students told NBC5 News they felt hurt and unsafe when the school board brought back educators, Rachel Damiano, and Katie Medart. The two employees said they are open for a conversation, many students say the damage is already done.
The large turnout for the walk-out not only surprised student organizers, but students who didn’t know this level of support existed in the community.
“This is, wow. For a small-town community, really! Josephine County showing their pride” said Andrew Weber, Grants Pass High School student.
During the event, the focus shifted when counter-protesters appeared holding anti-LGBTQ+ signs, as well as pro-life signs. Two Grants Pass High School students and one adult were taken off campus by Grants Pass police. Police said charges are pending for the students, but 19-year-old Lillyana Audley is charged with rioting, 2nd-degree disorderly conduct, and interfering with police.
But student organizers hope to keep the focus on the issue at hand. Organizers said they didn’t want students to interfere with the counter-protesters. Instead, surround vulnerable students with support.