- The Washington Times - Monday, March 26, 2018

A teacher in Oregon has been placed on leave after leading students in an unauthorized walkout in honor of a black teenager that was killed by a Portland police officer last year.

Ockley Green Middle School teacher Chris Riser was placed on leave after an investigation showed he led hundreds of kids in an off-campus protest that subjected them “to the risk of potentially severe harm,” the school’s principal said in a statement Friday.

Principal Paula McCullough said students were instructed to lie down in a busy and active intersection as part of a “die-in,” which resulted in a traffic backup.

“Portland Public Schools supports our students’ rights to exercise free speech, to become involved in civic events, and to engage in political and social activism,” Ms. McCullough said. “We have, however, zero tolerance for our students being placed in unsafe conditions. This situation created an unacceptable level of risk to our students.”

Parents and students are circulating a Change.org petition to help get Mr. Riser back in the classroom. More than 1,800 people had signed the petition as of Monday afternoon.

Chris Riser is an important presence to the students at Ockley Green Middle School,” the petition reads. “He is a strong voice for social justice, diversity and equality. At a critical time when gun violence is rampant, Chris Riser is teaching the kids that their greatest weapon is their voice. By placing him on administrative leave, it is teaching our children that speaking up for what they believe in is wrong. Some of the best education we can learn is not in the classroom but from social interactions. Chris Riser is a young, energetic, engaging teacher who should not be punished for something we all agree on. (e.g. gun violence in schools).”

The walkout occurred on Feb. 9 in support of the family of Quanice Hayes, a 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a Portland police officer exactly one year prior.

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