Upset by the way school administrators recently handled an issue involving a popular Nerf game, a group of parents organized a protest in front of Capital High School on Olympia’s west side Friday morning.
This week, an email written by Capital junior Tim Phung was widely circulated by parents and students at the school. It states that in December, the school’s interim co-principals ordered him to stop organizing the Nerf game called “junior assassins,” which is not allowed on campus. Students pay money to be part of the game, and then try to hit each other with Nerf darts around the community. The last student in the game wins the pot of money.
Gwen Lloyd, whose son is a junior at Capital, said that since one of the rules is that the game is not allowed on campus, she doesn’t understand why the student was told to stop organizing the game.
“This is hugely unjust,” she said. “What the school is choosing to do and the way they’re exercising their power isn’t right. It’s especially important for students to know that they have a voice at this age, and to know that they matter, and that we have their back and we’re going to support them.”
Phung’s email said school officials told him he could be expelled or investigated by the police if he continued organizing the game. The student also wrote that he felt school officials handled the case the way they did because he is Asian.
Phung wrote that he feels so threatened at Capital that he is transferring to Sumner High School for second semester.
Olympia School District spokeswoman Susan Gifford said the district could not address information about the student because of privacy rights. She said district Superintendent Dick Cvitanich and other district staff met with some Capital High School students, staff and administrators on the issue this week.
“Capital High School staff will meet with students next week in classrooms to discuss how they are feeling about their campus and staff,” Gifford said in a statement released to The Olympian. “Capital High School is a great place to learn; but as always, we continuously strive to improve. We want to give all of the Capital High students a chance to share their thoughts and perceptions about their school experience.”
Charles Pailthorp, who was among the protesters Friday, said his son organized the game two years ago.
“They (school officials) didn’t like it, they’ve never liked the game, but they didn’t bring any sanctions down or they didn’t hassle him in any particular way, so it strikes me as really unfair that they’re doing this now,” Pailthorp said.
Capital students were planning a sit-in after school Friday in support of Phung. Many students also wore white clothing as a way to show solidarity on the issue, said senior Nigel El-Sokkary, 17.
“It represents what the student body is about at Capital, that we support each other,” he said. “There are a lot of emotions going around, but we just want to make sure that (the student) feels supported.”