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Students Walk Out, Protesting Teacher Layoffs Submitted: 05/09/2012
RHINELANDER - Students walked out of classes at Rhinelander High School Wednesday morning.

Their protest? The potential firing of four RHS teachers.

Facing a budget tightened by $2 million dollars, Blaine Obey, Angela Schaffer, Michael Velis, and Kim DeBuhr were notified they would be laid off at the end of the year.

"The teachers that are getting fired, if they did what we're doing right now, they'd be fired instantly. So they know that they have someone that will stick up for them," said Dalton Rose, an RHS student.

Students told Newswatch 12 the effect the teachers have had on them goes beyond the classroom.

"Mrs. Schaffer always listens to our personal problems, even though she doesn't have to. She could just teach us, but no, she takes the time to actually listen to us and help us," said student Dani Hageny.

Some say the teachers, while not promoting this specific protest, instilled in them the idea of standing for their values.

"They teach us to stand up for what we believe in and have a voice," said student Haleen Guth.

Oneida County Detective Sergeant Phil Newcomb, who works with the school district, was one of the staff scrambling to get the students back to school.

"Stop protesting," Newcomb told the students while they occupied the public sidewalk outside the school. "There's a peaceful way to protest, but this is not the way."

School administration is still considering punishment options for involved students.

Principal Paul Keats sent a letter to high school parents saying he could not "allow students to disrupt the educational environment."

"Mr. Keats and I are working closely with the appropriate people to find the appropriate response, not to have a knee jerk response...fines are not going to come, and possible punishments are still being considered," said RHS Associate Principal David Ditzler.

While no fines may come from the school itself, multiple students and parents told Newswatch 12 Wednesday afternoon that some received citations from the Sheriff's Department with fines attached.

But students said the walkout today, which included more than 50 participants, was a definite success.

"We hope it keeps the teachers that actually appreciate us. We appreciate them," said student Dani Hageny.


Story By: Ben Meyer

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