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The Beaverton School District hosted a virtual forum for candidates to answer live questions over Zoom.

FILE - The eight candidates for the Beaverton School Board are shown here. Candidates for the Beaverton School Board answered questions from the community during a virtual forum hosted by the Beaverton School District, Wednesday, April 28.

Four seats on the School Board are up for election on May 18, and all four are contested by two candidates. Every candidate was present for the forum.

The event started off with introductory remarks from incumbent Susan Greenberg and opponent Jeanette Schade running for Zone 1, followed with statements from Karen Peréz-Da Silva and Fuhua Xu, hopefuls to win an open seat for Zone 2. Schade previously faced a backlash after protesters learned her platform opposes "critical race theory" and comprehensive sexuality education.

SCREENSHOT - Dr. Fuhua XuIn Zone 4, which is also an open seat, Sunita Garg and Saralyn Dougall made their opening pitches, followed by incumbent LeeAnn Larsen and challenger Ugonna Enyinnaya, running for Zone 5.

The moderator said the district received more than 160 questions from local residents for the candidates to answer, which were then put into five categories. The questions surrounded topics such as equity, curriculum, and school resource officers.

Sex education, diversity and racism

Responding to an early question, Greenberg said it's important that children have a broad education, including comprehensive sex education. COURTESY PHOTO: SUSAN GREENBERG - Susan Greenberg, Zone 1

She added that she believes in diversity and equity in all of the schools in the district along with including that in the curriculum.

Schade objects to Beaverton's sex-ed curriculum.

"When we start talking about anal sex or talking about masturbation or talking about having a child question their identity based upon their gender, those are things that are not of age-appropriate for children to learn in the elementary and middle school levels," Schade said.

Schade argued that teaching about gender identity could harm students.

"We should not be requiring teachers to be teaching about gender identity and transgenderism," she said. "Why we putting this burden on the teachers to try and teach gender identity and transgenderism when it could actually be very harmful for the students? We need to put that in the back in the laps of the parents and allow the parents to hire the medical or health professionals that are needed to help the child through those processes."COURTESY PHOTO: SUNITA GARG - Sunita Garg, Zone 4

Greenberg, however, said that LGBTQ students should feel welcomed in the district's health curriculum.

"We absolutely need to be talking about sexual orientation," Greenberg said. "We need to be open and honest kids come from all different places, and they have all different types of identities. We need to embrace that. It's so important that our kids feel safe, especially our LGBTQ students feel like they can speak out in their classes, and that they can feel safe doing that."

Asked for her thoughts on the sex-ed curriculum as well, Garg said parents should have the choice to opt out, she said, but the curriculum should still be offered.

"I am not learned enough to tell you what they should be learning at third grade or fifth grade. I'm not a curriculum person, I'm an accountant," Garg said. "But I do believe that teachers, educators who are trained to set a curriculum, will set the right curriculum for our kids."

Like Schade, Dougall argued that the curriculum is not age-appropriate.

"It's time to revisit it and look at it and eliminate some of the things that are, in fact, not appropriate and take those out," Dougall said.

School resource officers

All the candidates were also asked about their opinions on school resource officers. The school board discussed this topic earlier this year at a public meeting.

Dougall relayed an experience her son had at the district when someone brought a gun to school, but then the situation was handled by a school resource officer.COURTESY PHOTO - Saralyn Dougall, Zone 4

"The most important thing that we need to do is to keep our students safe," said Dougall.

She added that she asked a Beaverton police sergeant for some statistics about what could be causing people to be upset and concerned and said the sergeant had none to show.

Peréz-Da Silva recalled her time as district-level administrator. She said officers were called into situations when they weren't needed.

"It is not clear the role of SROs in BSD," she added. "We need to reform or to relook or to take them out of our schools, if that's what our students and community choose. I don't believe that SROs are culturally responsively trained to deal with situations for our students of color."

Garg said the school resource officers provide a good service to keep kids safe, but the district needs to be aware of their limitations and how children view them.

"Reform is needed because people are intimidated, and they are probably treated differently — maybe not by their SROs in the Beaverton School District, but a conversation or a dialogue is needed," added Garg.

Enyinnaya said the district must consider what is best for students' well-being. COURTESY PHOTO - Ugonna Enyinnaya, Zone 5

"(Students) have been isolated for one year, and when they return to school, they're going to need mental health support," said Enyinnaya. "I'm speaking from the perspective of a parent of a Black student — bearing in mind that we have heard from our Black and brown communities that the presence of these various SROs make them uncomfortable."

Larsen said that it's important for the community to know that the school resource officers are almost fully funded from the Beaverton Police Department and not from the district's general fund.

"I do want to be available to listen to Black and brown students and how SROs make them feel," she said. "At this point though, I do believe that safety is the number one priority … and that they belong in our schools."

Greenberg referred to last year's murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, who was convicted last month of his unlawful killing. She said Beaverton school leaders must be conscious of how Black students responded to that.

"Our students of color especially do not feel safe in our schools with our SROs," she said.

While Greenberg said she feels SROs do serve a role in schools, students' mental health must be taken into account.

As for Schade, she remembers having positive interactions with school resource officers and seeing positive interactions between officers and students. She said SROs are needed at times to keep students from fighting. COURTESY PHOTO: JEANETTE SCHADE - Jeanette Schade, Zone 1

"When you're talking about mental health workers, absolutely, we need mental health workers," Schade said. "But when you have two kids fighting — and if you've ever seen students fight like I have — it is very difficult to get them broken up sometimes."

Xu said he spoke with an Asian American student group who said that their safety is important, especially with uptick in attacks against Asian people across the country.

"SROs should be in the schools and are good for Asian students in Beaverton," he said.

Changing curriculum

Larsen and Enyinnaya were asked to help voters understand their educational values and priorities, including what the district should teach beyond reading, writing and arithmetic. The question also asked about the how educators should address science and religion at various grade levels.

The incumbent started this round of answers.

"I believe in giving students the opportunity to have access to music, choir, drama, the fine arts, all of the pottery and photography. If they can't explore between kindergarten and 12th grade, chances are they won't be finding a time in their life to explore, so I would love to be able to provide as many opportunities for our students as we can," she said. "of course, most of those need to happen up in the upper grades because of the state standards and the things that we need to get through in elementary and even some of the middle school to be able to prepare them for graduation." COURTESY PHOTO - LeeAnn Larsen, Zone 5

Enyinnaya focused more on the importance of culture in education.

"I always believe that students are not just sent to school to learn to read and write," said Enyinnaya. "We have to teach them to broaden their minds to understand that there are cultures and religions that are different from theirs. So, I believe that we can include education can be all encompassing."

The candidates were also asked other questions regarding learning losses in minority students during distanced learning, what virtual learning should continue in the school district, and what in-person learning will look like in the fall. COURTESY PHOTO: KAREN PERÉZ-DA SILVA - Karen Peréz-Da Silva, Zone 2

The candidates were also asked other questions regarding learning losses in minority students during distanced learning, what virtual learning should continue in the school district, and what in-person learning will look like in the fall.

You can view their answer on those questions visiting, youtube.com/watch?v=9LXKgjoH4dw.

The Beaverton School Board election will be held on May 18.


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