Portland, OR – A middle school teacher who led students on an unauthorized school walkout and told them to lie down in a busy intersection was put on administrative leave on Friday, school officials said.
Ockley Green Middle School social studies teacher Chris Riser and Black Lives Matter activist Teressa Raiford led a student assembly on the morning of Feb. 9, KATU reported.
During the assembly, Riser told the students that he was going to leave the school to walk towards the police department, where he planned to meet with the family of a Quanice Hayes.
Hayes was fatally shot by police after officers cornered the armed robbery and carjacking suspect. Officers ordered him to lay on the ground with his hands out, and he instead reached for the small of his back, and the front of his waistband.
A black air pistol was recovered on scene. A grand jury later determined that the shooting was justified.
During Riser’s march, he said that he wanted the students to come with him, but that he had to leave them behind, and not to come, seventh-grader Harmony Mahoney told KATU.
The students were told to go back to class at the conclusion of the assembly, but dozens filed out and began following Riser.
“It was really empowering because it was everybody there,” Mahoney told KATU.
When two other teachers and the assistant principal realized that the students had no intentions of returning to class, they intercepted the crowd, and were able to turn many students back.
“If they hadn’t done that, there would have been over 200 students following,” Portland Public Schools spokesperson Dave Northfield told KATU.
Approximately 100 students left the school, according to The Oregonian.
Riser and Raiford led the students to a busy intersection along Martin Luther King Boulevard, and told them to lie in the roadway, Ockley Green school officials said in a letter to parents and guardians on Friday, according to The Oregonian.
“During the walkout, students were directed to lie down in a busy and active intersection as part of a ‘die-in.’” the school wrote. “This resulted in a traffic back-up, and at one point the students had to move out of the way of an ambulance that crossed through the intersection.”
“After leaving the intersection, students were instructed to block traffic by walking in the street,” the letter continued. “The walk covered three miles and lasted two hours before students returned to school.”
After a “thorough review” of the unauthorized walkout, the school determined that Riser had subjected the students to “the risk of potentially severe harm,” the school said.
“We have…zero tolerance for our students being placed in unsafe conditions,” the letter read.
Portland Public Schools refused to confirm what type of leave Riser was placed on, KATU reported.
A petition for his reinstatement had garnered nearly 1,700 signatures as of Monday morning.