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Sandy City Councilors, STAND UP Movement organizers and student leaders discuss changes in city, school district

PMG FILE PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - The Sandy STAND UP Movement protested for the first time June 5 in Centennial Plaza. When Tracy George, Lindsay Polk and Allison Cloo started the Sandy STAND UP Movement about a month ago, their initial protests were to gain attention for their cause of promoting anti-racism and calling for change at the local, state and local level. But the overall goal was always to open a dialogue within the community, which would help gain momentum and lead to action.

In the next step of that effort, representatives from both the Sandy STAND UP Movement and Sandy High's S.A.F.E. (Students Advocating for Equality) met virtually with Sandy City Council, Sandy Police Chief Ernie Roberts and City Manager Jordan Wheeler for a listening session on Tuesday, July 7.

"I am proud of our community for our collective willingness to engage in the important conversations on the issue of racism in our community," Mayor Stan Pulliam said following the meeting. "I'm proud of the members of The STAND UP Movement for the leadership they've show in advancing the discussion. We're currently working on a statement that our City Council can make that disavows racism in every form and represents the best of what Sandy has to offer. Additionally, I hope to continue to work with our neighbors to engage their much needed involvement in our community committees to invoke actionable change here in the city we all live in and love so deeply."

Councilors and community leaders discussed a multitude of experiences students at Sandy High and citizens have faced regarding racism. Student leaders Molly Izer and Jake Billard talked about how the Confederate flag — an image they are petitioning to ban at the schools — has been creating an atmosphere of fear and animosity at the high school for decades. And that even though the student body is 76% white, it is up to Sandy High and the greater Sandy community to take a stance on racism and hate symbols.

"I do see this, especially as a cultural issue, but as an issue we have to attack from the school," Izer has said. "Our school is not just producing graduates, we're producing members of the community. If we want to better our community, bettering our school is the very first step to take."

Multiple community members called in to pose questions of Chief Roberts, asking about required trainings and protocol to keep officers from acting out under any racial biases.

Roberts emphasized that Sandy Police Department has, for a long time, gone beyond what's required in terms of training, including bias training.

"We have not run into (the issues people have in other parts of the country)," Roberts said. "Honestly, a lot of us are confused about it. Our main focus is that (all people) feel safe."

Sandy STAND UP organizers Tracy George and Lindsay Polk reiterated that their movement is not one that's anti-police, but pro-change.

COURTESY PHOTO: ANDREW SCHAFFER - Students Advocating for Equality drafted a petition in June to ban the Confederate flag from Oregon Trail School District campuses and create more leadership positions for students of color. "In Sandy there's been this dividing line," Polk said after the meeting. "And the only line we want to draw is to end racism. People seem to think because we're anti-racism we can't support police. We want police officers to be held accountable. And I think the Sandy Police Department officers have been great. We're challenging the status quo, but it's to better society."

City Planning Director Kelly O'Neill chimed in to explain that he is working within his department to ensure that his staff is educated on how racial bias can and has played into housing and city planning.

Following their meeting with city councilors and staff members, the S.A.F.E. leaders met with Rep. Anna Williams, D-Hood River, and discussed their petition and hopes for change at Sandy High further.

Sandy High's Billard said it's been a "great experience" to be able to represent youths in the community at these meetings. Izer added that while she was pleased with the dialogue that happened with City Council, "I was hoping to get a little bit more proof of action from the city."

In their own effort to take action, Izer, Billard, and ASB president and S.A.F.E. co-founder Josiah Rothwell, plan to attend a meeting of the Oregon Trail School Board of Directors in the near future.

"This is something that has to move now," Rothwell said. ".... Racism doesn't take a summer break ...."

The student leaders are also considering hosting another protest open to students and parents from multiple Oregon school districts.

The Sandy STAND UP Movement is also planning ahead, with both virtual and in-person events. The group recently took up the effort of aiding Estacada's community members protesting injustice and calling for change and will host another march against racism there on July 17.

Polk and Cloo are also planning online events, such as a book study group on reads like "How to be an Antiracist" by Ibram X. Kendi.

"I think when we're talking about the STAND UP Movement, the protests are just one part," Polk explained. "They're not the change that's going to happen, they're bringing attention to the change that's needed."

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