Shortly after a Chick-fil-A food truck showed up at a high school event, students decided to stage a walkout because they felt unsafe. Then, counter-protesters joined in.
Students at West Linn High School in West Linn, Oregon, decided to stage a walkout protest after a Chick-fil-A food truck showed up at a home football game. The booster club had allowed America’s favorite fast-food restaurant to have a food truck at the home games, but the sight of the truck on school property allegedly made some students feel unsafe, causing them to organize the walkout protest.
At least 100 students at the school, which enrolls 1,800, banded together in support of the LGBTQ community, staging the walkout after they say a “series of events made students feel unsafe,” according to the Washington Examiner. Those events reportedly included bullying on social media as well as the presence of the Chick-fil-A truck at a home football game. Allegedly, a transgender student’s car was also vandalized with the word “queer” scrawled across the vehicle. So, the students spent a Friday morning walking out of class.
The protest was organized by the school’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance and was aimed at reducing an alleged “rising” anti-LGBTQ sentiment and bullying throughout the school. “We have seen a rise in homophobic and transphobic language and actions within our student body and within our student-faculty,” Susie Walters, the president of the student group explained, adding that things had gotten so bad that there were days she stayed away from school.
“Last Friday I didn’t go to school because I didn’t feel safe,” Susie said, explaining that the walkout also had to do with the booster club allowing Chick-fil-A to have the food truck at school events. Susie also claimed that she has faced harassment while on campus and throughout the community. “I have faced, on school property and in our community, from West Linn students, I’ve faced people yelling slurs at me, and calling me names,” she told Oregon Public Broadcasting.
In regards to the Chick-fil-A truck, Susie alleged it was “not appropriate for the truck to be [at the school] in the first place because of the homophobic and transphobic symbols they represent and fund.” For years, Chick-fil-A has faced criticism from activists because of donations to groups that support traditional Christian values, including marriage being a religious union between a man and woman. Some have called this anti-LGBTQ due to the opposition of gay marriage by these groups.
Chick-fil-A issued a statement in response, saying in part that it was disappointed to hear that its food truck at the game would upset the students. The company added that it does not have a political or social agenda. “Chick-fil-A embraces all people regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender identity,” the statement furthered.
A spokesperson with the school district said they plan to pay closer attention to who’s allowed to serve food on campus. “We realize there was no process for selecting these venders. It’s something we now realize we need to have in place and will do so into the future,” he said. But, Fox News reported that the school promised the Chick-fil-A food truck will appear at the remaining games of the season.
Although Susie Walters and her group seemed to get the most attention, a group of counter-protesters joined the walkout, donning “Make America Great Again” hats while waving American flags as they reportedly voiced their support for Chick-fil-A. They were not, however, allowed to speak with the media. When reporters tried to speak with those students, a district spokesperson said the school was “not comfortable having students speaking on camera without permission from their parents.”
The school’s principal made an announcement that the school does not support student walkouts as forms of protest — and the school’s public information officer added that the school was not aware of any incidents of harassment against the LGBTQ community. “The West Linn-Wilsonville School District takes all matters of school safety seriously, and diligently investigates and addresses all potential safety concerns,” the officer said. “That includes bullying or cyberbullying.”
This is far from the first walkout protest that has taken place at West Linn High School. In fact, after very little digging, walkouts seem like a regular, yearly occurrence. Video footage was easily found of walkout protests that took place in 2016 and 2018. Both protests had a focus on LGBT issues. In addition, the 2016 protest also focused on alleged “recent racially-charged incidents,” while the 2018 walkout also protested “gun violence.”
Perhaps the student whose car was vandalized summed up the protests the best. “We walked out to show our student pride,” the student said. “To show that despite everything we’ve been through, we are still proud of who we are, and we won’t back down and we won’t make exceptions for anyone.” Read that last part again. Back down from what? Food? Fellow students can’t have a meal without it being a political statement?
These activists won’t make so-called “exceptions” for anyone who doesn’t think and believe exactly as they do — not even for a food truck from Chick-fil-A simply because the owner of the company holds a different opinion than they do. Instead, they will attempt to bully everyone into supporting their cause under the allegation that, if you don’t, you’ve made them feel unsafe. To the activist, every action committed is a statement about the support or condemnation of their cause. In reality, some of us just want a chicken sandwich.