The move was in protest of comments made on Facebook by Principal Liza Sejkora over the death of Kobe Bryant
CAMAS — With chants of “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!” students at Camas High School walked out of the building shortly after 1 p.m. this afternoon, in protest of comments made on Facebook by their principal.
District officials said the students had agreed to gather inside the high school’s common area, but not to go outside. Instead, shortly after students had gathered, they marched outside the front entrance and gathered, as teachers and security guards milled around.
“I want to say sorry to the administrators, I know you trusted me,” said a student holding a bullhorn identified by sources as Kaeden Blackmon. “But I had to do it the right way.”
Superintendent Jeff Snell confirmed the students had agreed to remain inside the building, but decided to go ahead with the walkout.
“You know, students are working through a challenging week too, and their emotions are running high as well,” said Snell. “When we got in there and set it up, you know, they decided to move it outside. And at that point, as administration, we just want to make sure that everybody’s safe and secure.”
Students have been angry since late last week when Principal Liza Sejkora drew backlash with since-deleted comments on social media about the late Kobe Bryant.
The first post on Facebook, made within an hour of the helicopter crash in Calabasas, California that killed the basketball star, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others, said “Not gonna lie. Seems to me that karma caught up with a rapist today.”
Sejkora deleted that post about an hour later and followed it up by saying “I just deleted a post. It was deleted because the comments missed my Intent. You are free to judge me for the post just as I am free to judge the person the post was about. Also — if you are shocked I speak my mind on my page, I am honestly surprised.”
That post was later removed, Sejkora said in an interview with Lacamas Magazine, after she realized the full scope of the tragedy and how many other lives were involved.
“That was ill-thought,” Sejkora told Lacamas Magazine Editor Ernie Geigenmiller, “and, as I’ve shared in an apology, the result was tasteless, and so my apologies around a poor decision I made.”
Bryant was accused by a 19-year-old of forcing her to have sex in a Denver hotel room in 2003. The case was later dismissed after the accuser refused to testify, and Bryant later settled out of court.
“I wanted to do the walkout for the memory of Kobe Bryant,” said Blackmon, “because I feel like we were underrepresented by our principal, Doctor Sejkora.”
Snell made the decision to place Sejkora on paid administrative leave, in part, for her own safety, after threats were made against her and the school. Camas police have had an increased presence on campus this week.
“We’ll wrap up an investigation, make a decision on the HR component of that, and then also make a decision on the principalship at Camas High School,” said Snell. “So, looking for a speedy resolution, but also got to go through a process.”
After 24 seconds of silence in honor of Bryant, who wore the number 24 for most of his career, Blackmon offered a few final words of advice to the gathered students.
“Life is short, and so you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do,” he said. “Live life to the fullest, live life with drive, live life with purpose, and live with mamba mentality.”
That last reference was a nod to Bryant’s nickname of Black Mamba, and his basketball academy where Gianna and several of the younger girls who died in the crash were headed to practice on the morning of the helicopter crash.
The students against chanted Kobe’s name briefly, then filed quietly back into the school.
“I’ve just been really impressed with our students as a whole,” said Snell. “I’ve spent all week just talking with kids, being present in their classrooms, in the hallways, at lunch. And, you know, they love their school and they’re frustrated that their school is being portrayed in a way that they don’t think is fair.”
Ultimately, Snell says, he had no issues with what was said by the students during the walkout, and hopes that this can lead to a teaching moment for both students and staff about the dangers of social media and being sensitive to the world around them.
“Certainly, even in the reactions this week, you know, we’ve had moments that I’m sure people aren’t really proud of that are reflected in social media,” Snell said. “And so I think it’s an excellent learning opportunity. I hope that we can move forward from that as a community.”