And how are the children?
During a recent keynote address, Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Lora de la Cruz shared a wonderful story from the Kenyan Masai Tribe. Instead of "how are you?", a standard greeting of the Masai is, "And how are the children?" The traditional response, even from those without children of their own, is always "All the children are well."
The Oregon Legislature has long held the goal of making certain "the children are well." Last year, we made meaningful progress to support our kids.
In 2019, the Student Success Act was signed into law. This historic legislation provides an additional $1 billion to schools each year to support students' unique needs, including mental health and additional instruction time. We have a long way to go, but seeing our recent graduation rates on the rise, we are finally moving toward the promise of high school completion and career success for all students in Oregon.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth in our state. Working alongside Basic Rights Oregon and two courageous parents who lost their daughter Adi to suicide, we passed bipartisan legislation known as "Adi's Act." Oregon will now require all school districts to adopt model policies and plans for youth suicide prevention.
Legislators from across the state came together to protect students from inappropriate conduct in schools by strengthening reporting and investigation requirements. It is important that all reports of suspected abuse or wrongful sexual conduct are investigated to ensure that our kids have a safe environment to learn.
In partnership with local law enforcement, school districts and nonprofits, Oregon is investing in programs like Lines for Life — a statewide substance abuse and suicide prevention hotline. As a member of the Task Force on Student Safety, I am excited to continue advancing mental health support for our youth.
As a member of the Attorney General's Sexual Assault Task Force, I am working in partnership with local organizations like Clackamas Women's Services to fund critical violence prevention and intervention education.
We have a lot to celebrate, and even more to accomplish so that we can say proudly, "the children are well in Oregon."
This upcoming legislative session, I will prioritize the health and wellbeing of children in our state. My key priorities include supporting Child Abuse Intervention Centers; protecting vulnerable youth in our communities from deportation, homelessness and human trafficking; gathering data on the health of young Oregonians; working for sensible gun safety; and addressing the climate crisis that threatens our children's future.
Moving forward, I am partnering with a variety of organizations to host town halls focused on children's wellbeing. My goal is to hear from you about what young Oregonians need to thrive. These town halls will be a great opportunity to hear from community organizations about ways to get involved, support their efforts and learn how each of us can make a difference.
When Oregonians are asked, "and how are the children?" we should feel confident in the response, "the children are well in Oregon."
State Senator Rob Wagner represents Senate District 19, which includes areas of Clackamas, Washington and Multnomah Counties. He is chair of the Senate Education Committee and the chair of the Lake Oswego School Board.
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