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Arrests made during Grants Pass High School solidarity protest

Grants Pass High School
Grants Pass High School
Grants Pass High School
Grants Pass High School

Several hundred students walked out of school Tuesday afternoon to protest two teachers being reinstated by the school board and to show support for transgender students and the LGBTQ+ community.

Former North Middle School Assistant Principal Rachel Damiano and science teacher Katie Medart were fired in July over their so-called “I Resolve” campaign that challenged the district’s policies on gender identity. The teachers had used district time and resources to promote the campaign. The school board reversed course and reinstated Damiano and Medart last week.

Tuesday’s protest was planned to go for about 20 minutes, according to Rachelle Watson, an educator at Grants Pass High School. But, she says, two adult counter-protesters showed up and antagonized the students.

“It was so positive and supportive but when those two community members arrived and, obviously as adults came to disrupt a student-led protest, it went downhill gradually, but felt very quick,” she says.

Tensions rose and one student spat in the face of a counter-protester while another student began “swinging a broomstick” at him, according to police reports.

“The students just got back into their emotional space and were just having a really hard time with the fact that these adults came in and really disrupted what was a beautiful and peaceful protest,” Watson says.

Police detained two high school students and a 19-year-old protester from Medford on a variety of charges.

The Grants Pass High School principal could not be reached for comment.

Erik Neumann is JPR's news director. He earned a master's degree from the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and joined JPR as a reporter in 2019 after working at NPR member station KUER in Salt Lake City.