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Lake Oswego Junior High School students walkout in response to racist note

Photo of Christiaan Bedford from his mother, Jennifer Cook

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – About half the students at Lake Oswego Junior High School walked out of class Monday, protesting bullying and discrimination on campus after a black student was given a racially charged note by his classmates.

The mom of a Lake Oswego Junior High School student told KATU that students at the school went up to her son with a pink sticky note and stuck it on him.

"It was a pink little post-it note, and in all capitals, it spelled out the N-word and dog on it," said Jennifer Cook, the boy’s mother.

A Lake Oswego School District spokesperson said the walkout was peaceful. Some high schools students from across the street came to speak with the middle school students too.

Students say this was a chance for them to come together and share how they’ve been mistreated. Dr. Sara Deboy, the principal, sent an email to parents this weekend about the walkout, saying the school will support student voices and wants to make sure everyone is safe.

Cook said the walkout was encouraging and her son Christiaan has had a lot of support from his peers at school since news reports surfaced on Tuesday, but her son's incident is just the tip of the iceberg.

"This is not an isolated incident. This has been going on with children of color in this school district for a long time," Cook said.

Two other students, Dakota Webb and Ajialia McClure, both eighth graders, spoke with KATU News before class on Monday. Both of them described their own problems with racism on campus.

"They want to ask us, 'How do you say it, do you say n***** or n****?' They like to make stereotypical jokes like, 'Do you like fried chicken? You can dance can't you? You can play basketball?'" said Webb.

"Everybody loves to joke and play around, but sometimes children can joke and play around too much, and that's when it get's serious," said McClure who says she has had her hair pulled and been called names.

"When kids tend to do something like this, I don't feel comfortable to go to school. Sometimes I don't feel comfortable talking to teachers about it because they don't seem to get the diea of how it makes me feel that I'm being the butt of these jokes," said Webb.

Webb's feeling is not uncommon. Cook said her son felt the same.

On the district website, there is a lengthy statement on the incident and what the school is doing to help.

The school board says back in November, for the first time in district history, it adopted a three-year strategic plan focused on deepening work on diversity, equity and inclusion.

The board went on to write, “It is no secret that our district has had incidents of intolerance in its past… The work of identifying our own biases, building authentic relationships with and between students, and developing a culturally responsive teaching stance takes time, but we are committed to the work as the top priority for our children.”

Christine Moses, a spokesperson for Lake Oswego School District shared a statement Monday afternoon with news reporters, but refused to answer any questions.

"Our utmost concern is with the vicitm and their well being and to make sure this never happens again," said Moses.

Jay Hawkins, Webb's father, said he is livid about recent events. He says this generation is re-learning what should have been lost in society.

"These children are learning hate. They're learning racism from home, from 'Lake No Negro,'" Hawkins said.

He says he moved here from the east coast, but he has seen more racism is worse in Oregon than in any other place he's lived.

Precious Lott, McClure's mother, said she has sent letters and called the district about concerns with her daughter, but she says they were never taken seriously till now.

"I believe the community needs to unify. We need to come together, we need to support each other, not just as parents, but as a culture within itself. Not just African-Americans, everyone," said Lott.

There will be several upcoming events at the junior high to discuss diversity. There’s a parent “Listen and Learn Event” scheduled for Feb. 13. Parents are invited to attend the site advisory committee meeting to discuss the school's racial climate on Feb. 26. There will be student events during February at the junior high and the district says curricular additions that "focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion for students are underway and will be made permanent."

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