Oregon’s education leaders voice support for Black Lives Matter
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Oregon’s education leaders, including OSBA, on Thursday issued a letter strongly supporting Black students and families and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We unequivocally affirm that Black Lives Matter and believe racial discrimination and injustice are intolerable in any form,” the statement said.
Students of many races throughout the state have rallied under the Black Lives Matter cause. The letter to the public, which follows reports of educators being harassed for displaying Black Lives Matter symbols, affirms agreement with the movement’s principles and dedication to creating a better learning environment.
The letter was sent on the same day that the State Board of Education passed a resolution committing to anti-racism efforts, equity and support for all students. It urged “all Oregon school districts, public charter schools, and education service districts to affirm that ‘Black Lives Matter’ by striving to make space in classrooms and within the school community for dialogue and support for issues of race and equity.”
The state board resolution requested that schools pass resolutions validating Black Lives Matter with the same understanding. The board also recently adopted rules requiring school districts to develop policies that prohibit the display of hate symbols.
Discussion of the resolution made clear that board members’ support of Black Lives Matter should in no way be construed as a political expression that other lives don’t matter.
Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill mentioned the education leaders’ letter during the board’s resolution discussion.
“This is a statement of love, appreciation and recognition of longtime wrongdoings on a particular group of people,” he said. “It is not a statement against any other group.”
The letter from education leaders said it is important to acknowledge Oregon’s racist history while working toward a more inclusive future.
“Examining Black Lives Matter in a classroom context may generate conversation,” the letter said. “We are all education organizations, and we believe in the value of authentic and respectful dialogue.”
OSBA Executive Director Jim Green and Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus President Bill Graupp were among those who signed the letter on behalf of their organizations. It was also signed by leaders of the Oregon State Board of Education, the Oregon Department of Education, the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators, the Oregon Education Association, the Oregon School Employees Association, the Oregon School Activities Association, the Oregon Association of Student Councils and the Oregon Association of Education Service Districts.
The letter said the movement and its symbols have been misunderstood and misrepresented. The leaders stated their support for Black Lives Matter as a civil rights movement with its call for social justice and combatting racism.
“To many educators, Black Lives Matter demonstrates to all of our students that racism has no place in our schools or society,” the letter said. “It shows Black students that they matter in our classrooms.”