North Thurston parents, students take their district concerns to Lacey City Council Boone

A group of North Thurston Public Schools parents and students who have persistently criticized the district for its handling of student-led protests and the change those gatherings sought kept up the pressure on Thursday by taking their message to the Lacey City Council.

The protests sprouted a year ago at North Thurston and River Ridge high schools in response to concerns about racism and sexual violence, organizers have said.

The parents and students told the council on Thursday that little has changed in the past year.

Mary Weber, a parent of a Black Student Union member, said nobody is doing anything and nothing is working.

“I am asking that the city council and the leaders of the community stand by those students because they continue to receive harm and trauma and it’s not getting better,” she said.

Student Katrina Hernandez recalled that students negotiated with the district for two weeks in order for them to feel safe to return to the classroom.

“Students don’t feel safe,” she said, accusing the district of hiring staff that cross professional boundaries and who roll their eyes at concerns about student safety.

“They don’t realize the mental health toll that can take place,” she said. “Mental health is not something to take lightly.”

Hernandez also accused the district of not caring about students and educators who are people of color, or who are members of the LGBTQ community.

“This district has failed the students of your city,” she told the council.

Parent Stephanie Scott recalled the moment a school administrator confronted Hernandez during the protest.

“The fear on her face propelled me across the space to position myself between her and the administrator,” she said. “These students need you.”

Lacey Mayor Andy Ryder said the council could hear and feel the pain they were sharing.

“It’s always our commitment as a city for everyone to feel safe,” he said. “And this council will continue to do what it can to ensure that everyone is welcome and has a place here in Lacey. Just keep it up. We have your back.”

North Thurston Public Schools Superintendent Deb Clemens attended the council meeting for a proclamation celebrating Future Business Leaders of America. The district has six active chapters of FBLA, according to the proclamation.

She also was on hand to hear public comment. The district responded with a statement on Friday.

“We are continuously engaged in dialogue and learning around equity and inclusion at the district-wide and school level,” spokeswoman Amy Blondin said. “For example, we invest in training for district leaders and instructional staff on equity-related topics such as recognizing racism and advancing equity so they can support our diverse community of students.

“We hold community cafes to explore with the community how to further our goal of inclusion. And we are implementing restorative practices to ensure school climates based on respect, responsibility, and repair of harm.

“Ultimately, our focus is to help ensure every student at every school has the resources and support needed to succeed.”