Protecting school board members is an OSBA priority. House Bill 3552 has been drafted to provide some help.
Rep. Hoa Nguyen, a Democrat representing eastern Portland and nearby rural areas and a David Douglas School Board member, is championing HB 3552. Senate Education Committee Chair Michael Dembrow, D-Portland and a longtime education advocate, is a chief sponsor, and former school board members Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro, and Rep. Ricki Ruiz, D-Gresham, are also sponsoring the bill.
The bill would change the law in two ways. First, it would prohibit the release of board members' home or work addresses by county clerks during public records requests. Clerk responsibility to verify addresses for elections eligibility would not change.
Second, the bill would create the crime of harassment of an education board member, which would come into play if school district, education service district or community college board members are targeted for harassment as a result of actions undertaken in board service.
School board members asked for the bill to address increasingly common instances of bad behavior targeting school board members. School board elections and school board service have become more political and contentious in the past few years. There is more money in school board races than previous election cycles. Sitting school board members locally and nationally face increasingly common threats of violence, harm and intimidation. Oregon School Board Members of Color Caucus members’ feedback indicates school board members of color are often the targets of attempted school board intimidation.
Procedurally, the bill is still in the early stages and has not been scheduled for a hearing. OSBA will advocate for the bill. Please get in touch with your regional Legislative Policy Committee member for more information about showing support.
OSBA Board President Sonja McKenzie said she is worried the ongoing personal threats to school board members could deter school board service. McKenzie, a Parkrose School Board member, said board members need these protections.
“They are public servants who give their time to support students around the state,” she said. “That dedication and service should not be at the expense of their personal safety and well-being.”