INDEPENDENCE — The Oregon State Board of Education has spoken out against racism in recent rulings and resolutions.
In September, they passed the “All Students Belong” administrative rule, which states that schools must adopt a policy by Jan. 1, 2021 that, among other things, “prohibits the use or display of any symbols of hate, including at a minimum the noose, swastika, or confederate flag.”
The Central School District has already started work toward that policy and practices that promote equity.
“With the board’s commitment, we will add a standing agenda item to our monthly board of director meetings focused on equity and continued dialogue on the progress being made by our District Equity Committee and within the school community,” said CSD Superintendent Jennifer Kubista. “This is a growth process not only for our board collectively but as a school district.”
“This (rule) actually came from a young person, one of the school districts on the coast who was very concerned about the hate and discrimination that they were seeing in our Oregon schools,” Kubista told CSD school board members at their Oct. 5 meeting. “Let me just begin by saying, we all believe, and I know that all of our students are entitled to a high-quality educational experience, free from discrimination or harassment based on perceived race, culture or religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.”
The district equity committee started meeting at the end of September.
“I think we have amazing leaders … in our administration, our teaching and our classified staff on that committee,” Kubista said. “I think we’re going to do great work there … to promote the wellbeing of our students.”
Kubista said the goal is not to be punitive, but to have conversations and educate.
“We’re going to do our best with our administrative team to respond to the incidents by being able to create opportunities for education and for conversation and not to move to disciplinary expulsion,” she said.
She said the district will start to communicate regularly with the community about the policies and practices that are put in place and will seek feedback.
“The district equity committee will be taking the lead on this with guidance from Oregon Department of Education to develop that initial policy and what that looks like for Central School District,” she said.
They hope to have a first draft for the November meeting, she said.
“We have already handled a couple of issues,” Kubista said. “I think we have handled it in the best way. I think we will continue to learn. We just want to build environments where students feel, when they walk through our doors, they feel safe. All students.”
She said she thinks the district needs to continue to have the conversation about racism and what it looks like.
“We heard from a handful of students in August and we are, especially with the equity committee, we’re taking some of the things they shared with us and we’re trying to figure out what that looks like, how does that happen,” Kubista said. “How do we continue to educate and move forward?”
The Oregon State Board of Education also passed a resolution last week in support of Black Lives Matter.
“The resolution strongly supports justice and dignity for all Black people and renews the Board’s commitment to anti-racism, equity, and access to education as a core value,” the resolution states. “It also urges Oregon school districts, public charter schools, and education service districts to take several actions to support Black students, educators, and community members including renewing their commitment to anti-racism and strengthening networks of support for students and families who are experiencing increased harassment, violence, bullying, or hatred based on race.”
The Oregon State Board of Education, the ODE, the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon School Boards Association, the Oregon School Employees Association, the Oregon School Activities Association, the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts, and the Oregon Association of Student Councils submitted a joint letter to the Oregon State Board of Education supporting the resolution.
“This is about growth and how do we continue to learn and grow and be in conversations where we may not agree but being able to stay in those conversations and doing it in a positive, appropriate way,” Kubista said. “I think that it’s possible, whether we agree or disagree, I think it is possible to be able to have those conversations.”