SOPHIA, WV (WVNS) — Independence High School students walked out of class and rallied in front of the campus Friday morning, March 17, 2023 to show support for their classmate, Nathan Rhodes.
They stood in the rain to send a message to their Rhodes, a junior at the high school who, according to family, was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer.
“I need Nate back,” said Dustin Morgan, one of Rhode’s classmates, “I miss him, and he can’t really see all of us outside of school because it’s overwhelming to him. But when he’s in school, we all get to see Nate.”
Students said Nathan was first diagnosed with cancer a few years ago. According to Rhode’s family, earlier this year school administrators ordered him not to study on campus because he was allegedly using a marijuana vape on school grounds.
Students said, after the terminal diagnosis, Rhodes was allowed to return to the classroom for several days but was later told to leave school grounds. They said Nate wants to be back in the classroom with his classmates, but the administration has not given permission for him to return to campus.
“He wants to be the high school kid he never got to be,” said classmate Calyb Nichols. “He’s been fighting cancer since ninth grade. It’s been an off and on fight, constant, constant, and when he got the news and he just wanted to be here with everybody….he just wants to spend time with people and he can’t do that because they won’t let him in school.”
Aubrey Goins, a Beckley Elementary School student, came to Independence High School to show support for Nate.
“I understand how hard it is because my grandma went through this,” said Goins. “And it’s just kind of stupid how they won’t let him back in.”
Raleigh County Schools superintendent David Price responded to the rally by saying, “We cannot comment on anything due to confidentiality. Our heart goes out to them. It’s a tough situation for everyone. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
Citing privacy concerns, Price declined to say whether Nate had been expelled or had been placed on alternative virtual learning, which permitted him to study from home.