About 60-70 students walked out of Northwest Classen High School around 9:30 a.m. Friday to demonstrate against Oklahoma City Public Schools putting a teacher on administrative leave.
Planning for the protest began Thursday when word got out that Gregory Mills, a loved and respected health teacher, had been removed from his duties at the school.
He is being investigated by the district for alleged “violations of school board policy.” District representative Courtney Morton would not be any more specific about the violations.
The buzz in the student body is that Mills was standing up for a student who was being bullied and then got in trouble for it with his supervisors.
Student protesters cycled through several chants.
“We want Mr. Mills!”
“Bring back Mr. Mills!”
“Free Mr. Mills!”
Pumping their fists in the air and jumping as they chanted, students moved to several locations in front of the main entrance, down the Northwest side of the building, and out in the parking lot gathering in front of Free Press and a News9 photographer set up on the sidewalk.
Several students stood in the middle of their peers and gave mini speeches about why they thought Mills was such a good teacher.
“He really cares about us!” shouted one.
“Mr. Mills shouldn’t be punished for standing up to a bully!” another bellowed out.
“It’s time to bring back Mr. Mills!” two of the student speakers said to punctuate their speeches.
All the speeches drew loud cheers from the student protesters.
No chanting or speeches were against the administrators, although students were angry about Mills’ treatment.
“We are upset because he got suspended just for standing up for a student that was being bullied,” said one source in the student body at NW Classen.
Student sources told Free Press through digital means that Mills had been walked out of the building by administrators in front of many students.
The perception among some students was that Mills was being made an example of by overbearing administrators.
The district’s response to our questions about the matter have been limited to confirming the name of the teacher and that he has been placed on administrative leave while the district investigates.
Friday several Northwest Classen assistant principals observed the protest but didn’t seem to interfere except to try and keep students on school property.
Chief Academic Officer Lynn Barnes was also present and seemed to be the one coordinating the other assistant principals along with William Stubbs, Instructional Leadership Director for Charter and Enterprise Schools.
We did not observe Principal Jahree Herzer present. However, we could have simply missed seeing her in the constantly-shifting group of students and administrators.
OKCPS is normally vigilant about media coverage and Friday was no different.
In two instances we were told to “move back off school property” when, in fact, we were standing on a public sidewalk.
It’s not the first time this reporter has had to remind OKCPS personnel about the difference between school property and a public sidewalk.
Courtney Morton with district media relations told us not to photograph faces because she didn’t know who had their parents’ permission to be photographed on school property.
Understanding that parents may have many legitimate concerns about their children being photographed, especially when it could reveal where their children attend school, we shielded the students’ faces in the way we shot this event.
One of our sources in the student body said they thought the protest “went great!”
They also believed that their administrators were fair with them and handled the protest well.