School Climate & Safety

Oregon District Cancels School as Armed Activists Occupy Nearby Wildlife Refuge

By Evie Blad — January 04, 2016 1 min read
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Schools in rural Burns, Ore., will remain closed until Jan. 11 out of concerns for student safety as militia members occupy a nearby federal wildlife refuge, Harney County School District #3 announced this weekend.

The district enrolls fewer than 1,000 students in its three schools. Students were originally set to return from winter break on Monday.

Burns is about 30 miles from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where an unreported number of armed anti-government activists took control of at least one government building Saturday in protest of federal control of public land. The group has said it will occupy the refuge for years and that members are willing to die for their cause.

Several high-profile and unusual closures ended 2015, including Los Angeles Unified’s decision to close schools to respond to an anonymous threat that was later deemed not credible.

The Burns closure decision is unusual because it was made relatively early. Local media began reporting the decision Saturday night as news of the occupation first spread. In another uncommon move, the district cancelled classes all week rather than monitoring the situation day-by-day.

Local and federal law enforcement continued monitoring the occupation Monday.

As I wrote recently, the decision to close schools is a difficult one for superintendents, who must balance safety concerns with the cost of lost learning time.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.