SOPHIA, WV (WVNS) – Students at Independence High School walked out on Thursday, March 16 to show support for one of their classmates.

At 10:30 Thursday morning there was a mass exodus of Independence High School students as they left the building in honor of their friend Nathan Rhodes.

Nathan has battled cancer for nearly three years.

Earlier this year, Nathan was allegedly removed from attending the school after administrators discovered a cannabis vape pen that Nathan uses to suppress nausea and increase his appetite. Recently, Nathan received a diagnosis that the cancer has spread and his disease is no longer treatable.

After receiving the diagnosis, all Nathan wanted was to return to school and have a few normal days with his friends – to just be a teenager. But on Wednesday, Nathan’s family said he was told by administrators his removal still stands, and he is not allowed to return to school property.

Independence students told 59News they are protesting the decision until Nathan is allowed back at school.

“It’s like a little riot to show them that if Nate’s not allowed, we shouldn’t be here then. If Nate can’t be here, we can’t either,” said a group of Nathan’s closest friends.

“When something’s wrong, it’s wrong and when you know it’s wrong you have to do something. It really shows how we are patriots. This shows we are patriots,” said another group of students who walked out.

Nathan’s grandfather, Barry O’Bryan, was at the school and said watching Nathan’s classmates walk out in honor of their classmate was a moving show of support.

“I’m sorry that it’s disruptive to school. It’s not something I want either. But it was extremely heartfelt and heartwarming, and there were a few tears in my eyes when I watched those kids walk out that door,” O’Bryan told 59News.

O’Bryan said Nathan thought he would be allowed back at school given the severity of his circumstances, but he was crushed when he was told he still could not return.

O’Bryan and the students still believe they can reach a resolution, but they will continue to fight until the administration changes course.

“If this isn’t a reason for an exception to the protocol, I don’t know what is. My whole purpose for talking to (59News) is to ask for some compassion,” said O’Bryan.

“Let him back. Don’t be so strict on him,” pleaded Nathan’s closest friends. “I mean, he’s in a time of need right now. I feel like he wants to live a normal life he should be allowed. He wants to spend as much time as he can around the people that he likes, around the people he wants to be around the most.”

“I hope everything works out for you and we all love you very much,” said another group of friends.

“Just keep fighting,” implored Nathan’s friends. “We love you, Nathan. You mean everything to us, buddy. Really.”

“This kid – he’s a warrior,” said O’Bryan. “And he’s my hero.”

Students told 59news they are willing to accept punishment for leaving school early.

Raleigh County Schools superintendent David Price says there is no official comment from the school board, and the issue is currently being handled at the school level.