PORTLAND, Ore. — The Multnomah County Republican Party has demanded Portland Public Schools release any documents regarding the "brainwashing" of students during the nationwide walkout on March 14.
The news release, which was sent by party chair James Buchal, claims the MCRP submitted a public records request on March 26 to PPS. According to Oregon law, an agency must respond within 5 days of a request, and the 5-day mark in this case was April 2.
Buchal confirmed PPS acknowledged his request Tuesday, April 3.
The MCRP claims PPS officials themselves "organized" protests and marches regarding gun control that were attended by students.
“The Superintendent is on record stating that he asked school leaders to plan 'a visible, school wide event,'” Buchal claimed in a news release.
Buchal says he believes the political push began when the school board passed Resolution No. 5606, which called on federal lawmakers to enact sweeping changes to gun control and gun laws.
"I think it will reveal is that there is a real top-down planning effort by the schools to push this agenda," Buchal told KATU in an interview. "I think there is certainly a role in school for discussing and educating people about policy issue. The question is, when it crosses a line from education to political advocacy, and we think it is pretty clear that it has crossed over the line."
Buchal says several parents said they witnessed teachers and staff interacting with official political activists during the National School Walkout events on March 14.
"[I] found a couple of parents who had similar experiences to me, that they were being assured one thing by their schools and then witnessing something different," Katherin Kirkpatrick said, referring to what staff told her leading up to the walkouts.
Kirkpatrick says her daughter chose not to participate in the walkout. She says her daughter was left without instruction and was given the opportunity to watch a movie until class resumed.
"My first concern is the First Amendment," Kirkpatrick said. "I’m an independent, and I just want my child to have that freedom to get education without coercion."
When contacted by KATU News, PPS spokesperson Dave Northfield directed us to the following online statement:
Portland Public School Educators,
Our hope and expectation with this website is to provide the Portland Public Schools community with a starting place for age appropriate strategies and lessons that can support our continuous effort to offer a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment for all students. The recent tragedies that occurred on February 14th at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, have yet again brought school violence and student safety to the forefront of national conversation. The events have also showcased an important and teachable moment for our students and community—the power that organized civil disobedience and direct action, often lead by students, can have on creating lasting social change.
And while our current policies do not allow Portland Public School employees to encourage, sponsor or participate in a “walkout”, we can provide our students with guidance and support to express their views, opinions and possibilities for civic engagement on this issue within school buildings. One of our tasks as educators is fostering and promoting students’ critical thinking skills and having them apply these lessons and schools to relevant and real-world context.
We recognize that many teachers in our district have been incorporating lessons that discuss such issues with students long before the tragic events which occurred in Parkland, Florida projected the issue onto the national agenda. However as an educator, please do not feel obligated to lead conversations you do not feel ready to have. But please don’t hesitate to reach out to your school building leadership for additional support and guidance.
No student or school employee should ever feel unsafe when they walk into any classroom or office at Portland Public Schools. We will update this website and revise our resources based on feedback and resources submitted. With your support we will continue to do all we can to ensure that our schools are safe, welcoming and supportive for everyone.
Thank you for all that you do.
Dr. Yvonne Curtis
Deputy Superintendent of Instruction and School Communities