What changes should be made in Lake Oswego schools? Former students have some answers
What would it look like if Black lives mattered in Lake Oswego schools? That was the question posed at the latest virtual event held by Respond to Racism, a local organization aimed at providing residents the tools to combat racism.
Bruce Poinsette, a volunteer with Respond to Racism, kicked off the virtual event held Wednesday, Feb. 3, over Instagram Live by explaining the premise.
"Oftentimes Black people, we get asked to tell our stories and it's for the right reasons … it's very well intentioned," he said.
But Poinsette said it can become a pattern of sharing your experience and not seeing any change come from it.
"It just almost feels like as opposed to trying to share your story for the good, it's almost like you're doing a trauma talent show," he said.
So, instead of falling into that pattern, this "visioning event" was meant to generate ideas of what needs to change in the district to show that Black lives truly matter there.
At the height of the event, 36 people had tuned into the discussion, and the video has gotten a total of 356 views since then.
Current and past Black Lake Oswego School District students shared their experiences and their visions for the future, either through written statements presented by Poinsette or by joining live.
"I think the main thought that comes to mind when I think about how LOSD is actively harming its Black students is its staunch resistance to removing SROS (school resource officers) from their schools," said Gemma Pleas, a recent Lake Oswego High School graduate.
She said the district needs to go past the point of "listening and learning" and take action. Responding to community requests, the district evaluated its SRO program in late 2020 and a presentation was made to the school board in December. However, a decision about the future of the program has yet to be made.
"Everyone in the Lake Oswego School District is educated enough to learn about the school-to-prison pipeline if they wanted to. They could learn about the history of policing if they wanted to," she said. "We all can observe the ways in which police not only historically but presently have harmed Black students, so to keep (police) in their schools is essentially to say that Black lives don't matter."
Pleas said she also would like to see the district learn from the Black Student Unions, Respond to Racism and Black community members instead of keeping the anti-racism work internal where "LOSD essentially controls the narrative."
She also would like to see these groups be paid for their work.
Poinsette read a statement from a current Lakeridge High School senior Sonoma Leland. Leland said she'd like to see more Black teachers and staff.
"It's nice to see faces that are finally seeing you for you, not just the distraction you are in class," she said.
Leland also said she'd like to see teachers trained on microaggressions.
"There needs to be more accountability for not just students but teachers, especially. They set the example for what's OK and what's not in class," Leland said.
Another written statement, from 2017 LOHS graduate Daniel Nsengimana, called for the consideration of mental health for Black LOSD students.
"Though I try not to dwell on the past, and I'm satisfied with who I am today, it's hard not to feel like my teenage years were stolen from me," Nsengimana said.
Poinsette, a former student himself, had some thoughts to share.
He said having graduated in 2007, his perspective is a bit further removed than the other participants.
"First and foremost, no more cops in schools," he said.
He also wants to see the district invest in more counselors.
"Not just invest in more counselors, but let's do something crazy like invest in Black ones," he said.
He said he'd also like to see more Black teachers, staff and administrators hired, including a pipeline program to create more educators in Oregon, where historically there are few.
"There is money here and there are too many people saying they care about equity. There are too many people saying they care about diversity. There are too many people saying they care about inclusion. And there's too much money to say we can't make investments in these things," he said.
Poinsette said Respond to Racism hopes to hold more events like this in the future.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.