Community speaks up during board meeting about racism, hate speech in local schools

Five students from West Linn High School's United Club stood in front of the West Linn-Wilsonville School Board and administration Monday evening, Dec. 4, to share students' negative encounters with intolerance of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status and more at WLHS.

Their goal? To have the school district adopt more firm policies that help schools become a safer, inclusive environment.

The meeting came full circle later in the evening when the school district presented amendments to three district policies.

But first, the audience heard stories of students being called terrorists for their ethnicity, swastikas being drawn on school property, students being called illegal immigrants because of their origin and a Korean student who stopped bringing Korean food to school because people harshly judged the smell and appearance.

"We feel that the prevalent (number) of cases and the personal toll this takes on the students requires immediate action," junior Wallace Milner said. "We believe that our school board should update our district's language on harassment and bullying."

And they weren't the only ones. A local community member spoke about the increase in hate groups, feelings of racial superiority and anti-Semitism both nationwide and in local schools, and the importance of creating a culture where the community is embracing of all people.

Cynthia Flannery, representing the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community (WLAIC) also made an appearance, emphasizing how the district's policies should address racism, hate, bigotry and other discrimination. Flannery was also present at the September and June board meetings, when she suggested the board make sure its policies run parallel with state resolution for safe and welcoming schools.

It was during the Sept. 11 board meeting that the board asked WL-WV Superintendent Kathy Ludwig to review the verbiage of some of the its policies.

Board Chair Ginger Fitch said the board addressed two of the policies brought forward to them by WLAIC.

Vice Chair Chelsea Martin said she reviewed all the policies as well as the proposals that WLAIC made.

"(They) were all considered, addressed, discussed in thoughtful and meaningful ways, consulted with administrators and legal council, and the decisions before you were the ones that I feel confident areas where we could strengthen our policies," Martin said.

One policy was amended to include immigration status when referring to ensuring equal education opportunities. Another policy about student conduct on school buses added verbiage addressing how hazing, harassment, intimidation, bullying, cyberbullying, teen dating violence and domestic violence is still applicable to students on the school bus. In the third policy, teaching about religion, it was suggested to insert "nor slander" so the policy would read, "Teachers shall not advocate (nor slander,) openly or covertly or by subtlety, a particular religion or religious belief, but may be permitted to expose students to information concerning religions and religious beliefs."

While the first two were approved, the "nor slander" addition has been asked to be sent back to legal council to replace slander with a more encompassing word and to change "nor" to "or."

"We don't control everybody's behavior so we want to have strong policies and we want to have strong practices," Martin said.

Wilsonville Spokesman reporter Clara Howell can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 503-636-1281 ext: 112.

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