Opponents organizing against school board motions
After Newberg School District board vice chairman Brian Shannon brought forth a trio of motions at a recent board meeting that seek to roll back inclusionary messaging and policies, a flood of reactions from the community began pouring in on social media and to board members' email inboxes.
Shannon — with apparent backing of a four-person majority on the board, including new chairman Dave Brown — has proposed to remove Black Lives Matter and Pride flags from schools, amend or potentially do away with the board's anti-racism resolution and examine the district's All Students Belong policy that mirrors language provided by the state education association.
All three items are up for discussion and potential votes at the Aug. 10 meeting.
Board members on the other side of the issue — like former chair Brandy Penner — have publicly denounced the effort, calling it political and potentially harmful to students in marginalized communities. While Shannon insists the effort is an attempt to return students to the basics of education, activists in the community are joining some board members in encouraging community members to provide ample public comment.
Business owners Kristen Stoller and Remy Drabkin, taking the lead in opposing the motions, sent a message to the community about how to get involved in resisting Shannon's efforts.
"The waves of impact that the proposed motion to remove social justice symbols in the school district and further ban them, go well beyond the classroom," Drabkin and Stoller wrote. "They go beyond our students' learning environment. This sends a message to our community that we are disregarding a large portion of our student base by removing them. This also says to our community that the new school board is not afraid to bring politics into the classroom by swift removals without public input.
"The proposed motion to remove the anti-racism resolution is a clear attempt to deny that any racism occurs in our school district. Please note that the proposed motions are not to reconsider, nor to allow the idea to be discussed with the new board, but to immediately impact the upcoming school year. Again, with a limited amount of time, we need to be loud, proud and clear with our letters."
Drabkin and Stoller's message included talking points for concerned district residents to use in their contacts with board members, as well as during potential public comment at the Aug. 10 board meeting. The idea behind the activism is to create a groundswell of opposition that, activists hope, turns the tide on the issue and convinces one or more of the new board members — Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart — to vote against Shannon's motions.
It may be an uphill battle: Powell and DeHart were both backed by a conservative political action committee during the campaign and have espoused a number of conservative political views during and outside of board meetings.
Shannon said he's heard from a large number of people on both sides of the issue, including many in the community who he said support his motions. But the effort from Drabkin and Stoller is the only organized effort to gather public comment on the matter so far.
Whether public comment changes board members' minds on the various issues remains to be seen.
"We are asking that you take time to read over the talking points, think about the meaning of representation and social justice symbols, especially to our youth in these buildings, the staff members in these buildings, and the families the NSD serves … and then take action," Drabkin and Stoller wrote. "We need you to write your letters and ask your family, friends and local community members to stand up and show up.
"The new members of the board and the new chairperson all mentioned that the amount of letters/emails and the stories that they were told influence them in their decision-making. They also mentioned that they want to hear from students, parents, staff (perhaps via letters supporting staff members' inclusive behaviors/impact on children) and community leaders."
Drabkin and Stoller's message to the community and talking points are available in a Google Doc at bit.ly/3BpQZHx, and includes the contact information of board members and other local stakeholders.
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