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Voices of Roosevelt

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Students Protest Treatment of Teachers at Ockley Green Middle School

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Credit: Ockley Green Middle School Website

Students at Ockley Green Middle School are protesting against the treatment of two of their teachers after they were placed on administrative leave without an explanation to the students earlier this April. The Portland Public School teachers, Phyllis Harris, Librarian and Damon Keller, Dance teacher were placed on administrative leave due to “personal matters”. Parents were told Keller had used an excessive amount of sick time according to the district but students believe the matter is related to reasons bigger than that. According to a former staff member “He (Keller) ran a great program and was very well loved by the students”.

 

 In response to both teachers being placed on leave, April 14th 2023 over 100 students at the middle school walked out and protested the treatment of their teachers. The students walked around campus chanting “Black teachers matter!” A former Ockley Green student when asked about the reasoning behind the teachers being placed on leave being racially motivated said they believed it was, “I’ve never heard of him (Keller) actually doing something rather than rumors and he was a strict teacher but he was insanely nice otherwise.” This is also not the first time there has been controversy around the treatment of black staff in PPS.  

 

Chris Riser was a black teacher at Ockley Green before stepping down early in 2022. When asked by the Portland Mercury about the situation he said, “The issue with the administration goes all the way back to the first year of consolidation as a middle school.” He was also placed on leave in 2018 after helping students plan another student-organized protest. In the same interview he stated, “at the same time the district is talking about retention, they’re actively hemorrhaging educators of color.”

 

This is an ongoing issue happening in our schools, specifically ones with larger populations of minority students. Currently, Damon Keller has kept his job at Ockley as the school’s dance teacher while Phyllis Harris no longer works at Ockley Green Middle School. With black teachers being placed on leave at Ockley Green and around PPS, students grow more and more angry with the district and their lack of accountability when it comes to the treatment of  staff of color. 

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Kyli, Social Media Team/Staff
Kyli Polychronis (she/her) is a current sophomore at Roosevelt High School, she transferred from Grant mid freshman year. She was born and raised in Portland, Oregon specifically the NE area.
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