Can you hear us yet?

On Feb. 8, two Oregon City High School students walked out of their school and protested against their admin.

Original Photo Credit: Aviana Palaoro, Illustration Design Credit: Mallory Cooper

On Feb. 8, two Oregon City High School students walked out of their school and protested against their admin.

Earlier this year, Oregon City High School students walked out of their school in protest of a video shown at an assembly detailing information about a student abusing his now ex-girlfriend. Students from neighboring schools have shown mixed feelings after the students started protesting. 

The assembly was put together by the student council and administration to cover mental health issues, and the goal was to bring people together by sharing students’ stories anonymously from moments when they were having a hard time, or struggling to overcome hardships. The event was all going well until students were deeply disturbed by a specific story that was submitted and shown to the school. 

The video that was shown in front of the student body was the silhouette of a student that was admitting to physically and emotionally abusing an ex-girlfriend who also goes to the school. 

“It was meant to unify the school and bring us closer as a whole, however when the administration chose this story to be read it did the exact opposite,” Aviana Palaoro, senior, and Unity Director at Oregon City, said.

The next day, students came together and planned to walk out of the school to protest against the administration office, and the principal, Carey Wilhelm. 

Multiple students brought posters with the slogans, “I’LL WAIT… FOR YOU TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY” and “WE WANT JUSTICE NOT COUNSELING,” on them. At first, the student council seemed to be receiving a lot of backlash regarding the video, but after further explanation from the committee, students found out the administrators put the story submission in. 

Oregon City’s student council formed a panel of adults including parents, teachers, and other community members to review the story submissions from an unbiased viewpoint. These adults were instructed to keep students’ identities anonymous. 

Even though the panel was established, an administrator didn’t agree to these terms from the student council. “However, one of our administrators took this into her own hands, dismantled our panel of trusted adults, and made it her job to pick the stories,” Palaoro said. “Which is not what my committee and I planned for.”

The principal decided to get rid of the panel of adults that Palaoro and her team put together to review the submissions. She reviewed all of them herself and chose the stories she wanted in the assembly video. 

The council made it so there was no possibility of identifying the students in the video. The committee even made it so their own council didn’t see the names of the submissions and just the people who chose what to put into the assembly. 

When the committee received the file back, a known abuser’s name was the first name on the list. His submission was reviewed 12 times and still was put in the video. 

“We knew immediately we must report this and notify an adult about this story, and so it is not included in our assembly,” Palaoro said. 

After reporting the situation, the counselor never got back to them about meeting in person to discuss this problem. 

“Our voices were ignored about an event that our faces were on,” Palaoro said. The student council was completely unaware that this video, even being reported, background information on the student, still chose this story. “Victims of his in the school were heavily affected by this.”

This video submission made Oregon City students retaliate against the school, and the next day, the students walked out. 

“We needed them to get a visual example of what happens when they continue to push the years of sexual assault and abuse reports underneath a rug, and fail to provide students with the proper resources to cope or take action,” Palaoro said. 

The demonstrations at Oregon City got support from the community, which agreed with the students, and spread awareness on social media. Not only does the student council want a change, but the whole community does. 

“I would like to see our administration finally take accountability and apologize to the students that have been hurt, triggered, and traumatized throughout this event,” Palaoro said. “Our principal needs to apologize to the victims she outed, to our committee for lack of communication, and to all victims of abuse in the school that she failed.”

Palaoro, to this day, continues to get messages from the community. 

“I had adults I didn’t even know messaging me about the protest, telling me OCHS students inspired them,” Paloro said.  “That’s what keeps us going, knowing we have an army of reassuring, determined adults behind us.”

Ever since the first day of the protest at OCHS, the local media has been filled with images and articles about the demonstrations.

“OCHS administrators made the situation worse Feb. 4 by sending out emails to parents that appeared to blame the student club for the video, then sending a clarifying letter later that day to absolve the club of responsibility,” said. This news website is a Portland Tribune newspaper site for current event stories in the area. 

Mandi Philpott, the school board chair, said she was going to call a meeting to bring some transparency to the district and school. 

Students were allowed to attend via zoom, but commenting on the media was turned off in the middle of the meeting, due to constant backlash to the administration. 

An online poll of 35 students from WLHS was asked if they would protest if this happened at their school. 77% of students voted they would protest, and 23% voted they wouldn’t. 

This issue students are facing is the fact that the administration didn’t take responsibility for adding the video into the assembly. Not only did students have certain opinions on it, but it was also the responsibility to deal with those problems and take the necessary steps to ensure students’ safety. 

Confidentiality has become a big part of this investigation, as it is still ongoing, and not all questions can be answered at this time. But in the meantime, schools could create a safe environment for students to feel like they can express their feelings and get help if it is needed. 

This story was publicized, it is very possible that misinformation can derail from what actually happened, but the important thing is that the administration and community need to gather the facts and act accordingly.


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