How it began: the impetus behind the walkout


Jamie Bikales

Students make signs before a sit-in at the PPS board meeting on Sept 6. After the board did not reconsider its decision to delay the bond measure, students walked out the next morning.

Lead in the drinking water. Overcrowding in the halls. Water leaks in the ceilings. Irritating seating restrictions at lunch. The list goes on and on about the issues at Lincoln.

Lincoln is one of three high schools in the Portland Public Schools district, along with Madison and Benson, that are in desperate need of a new school. Currently Franklin High School is being remodeled, Roosevelt just reopened after a remodel and Grant will be remodeled starting next year.

Lincoln, Benson, and Madison, were to be next in line. But, in July, the PPS school board abruptly voted 6-1 to move the bond measure for the new high schools from the November ballot to the May ballot. The board feared voters would oppose a November bond measure due to their anger towards PPS over the lead problem.

When members of the Lincoln community found out that the bond measure had been moved to May, they were not pleased because they fear voter turnout in May will be much lower than in November.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, many Lincoln students showed up at the board’s regular meeting to make their voices heard. Lincoln ASB co-president Riley Wilson and Senior Michael Ioffe refused to leave the podium until the board compromised with them. Supported by several rows of Lincoln community members waving signs, and three speakers who gave up their time to support the students, they asked the board to call an emergency meeting to consider moving the bond back to November.

The board did not change its mind and, instead of voting on holding a meeting, voted 4-3 to keep the bond measure on the May ballot. Many Lincoln students were furious.

After the meeting, Ioffe decided to organize a walkout for Wednesday, Sept. 7, starting at 9 a.m. The idea of a walkout spread rapidly through the Lincoln student body on social media.

Students arrived at school Wednesday morning and were immediately talking about the walkout. Promptly at 9 a.m. more than 1,000 students left their first-period class and met outside Lincoln to begin the walkout.

Students first went to Pioneer Courthouse Square, then to City Hall and then walked over the Hawthorne Bridge to Benson High School. The walk was about four miles long and was covered by all of Portland’s major news outlets.

The walkout didn’t help get the bond measure moved back to the November ballot, but the bold move by Lincoln students certainly sparked much conversation.