McKenzie Nix, PACE sexual abuse and molestation prevention specialist, (left) and Erin Merryn, founder of Erin’s Law, co-presented a workshop Thursday at the Salem Convention Center. (Photo by Rachel Baker, OSBA)
A hybrid PACE Day 2022 tackled heavy topics Thursday, including child sexual abuse, in the name of school safety.
Property and Casualty Coverage for Education is Oregon’s leading insurance pool for education, with more than 200 public organizations as members. PACE is a partnership of OSBA and the Special Districts Association of Oregon. The conference brings together school officials and experts in protecting students and schools, physically and legally.
Thursday’s event marked the event’s return to the Salem Convention Center after COVID-19’s disruptions. This conference was OSBA’s first venture into simultaneously offering an in-person event while live-streaming the sessions online with chat available.
The virtual option allowed people to attend from anywhere in the state, but Phoenix-Talent School Board Chair Dawn Watson said she relished the in-person meeting for the ability to have side conversations. Watson is an OSBA Board member and PACE Board trustee.
More than 130 people registered for the in-person event with nearly as many signing up for the virtual version. Roughly two dozen people switched to virtual because of the snowy and icy weather around the state this week.
Keynote speaker Erin Merryn, founder of Erin’s Law, opened the day with the harrowing tale of her own sexual abuse. Attendees said it was hard to hear but important, and she gave them reason to hope.
Educating children about sex abuse prevents it at school and home, Merryn said. She praised Oregon for its quick and effective implementation of Erin’s Law, which requires age-appropriate, prevention-oriented lessons in schools. Oregon is one of 37 states that have adopted some version of the law.
Eddyville Charter School Superintendent Stacy Knudson said she and Human Resources Director Missy Endicott came specifically to get more information to better implement prevention and train staff in their district east of Newport.
The day’s slate of workshops included the usual issues of risk management, legal concerns and preventative efforts. It also covered difficult current topics, including parental rights and contentious board meetings.
Leah McCarthy, Hillsboro School District risk manager, said she has been to multiple PACE Days and appreciates the presenters and exhibitors.
“I’m always learning something,” she said. “Even things I thought I knew, I learn more.”