By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Parents of minority students in the Bend-La Pine Schools say their children’s experiences in the classroom have been less than positive.
“Both of my children are mixed race, they’re black,” said Jen Jennings, a Bend parent. “And they are always coming home with a story. Kids telling my kids there’s no such thing as a black Santa, or you can’t marry me because you’re ‘Black and I’m white’. It started in Kindergarten!”
Some parents, like Allison Wirth, have pulled their child out of the district entirely after bullying left her 8-year-old child traumatized.
“I’ve got an 8-year-old kiddo who’s half-Korean,” Wirth said. “There were just a lot of kids pulling their eyes and going, ‘Why do you look like that?’, and ‘What’s wrong with you?’, and ‘Who’s your real mom?’, and ‘Are you North Korean or South Korean?’.”
Tuesday night, Bend La-Pine School unveiled the results of a months-long Excellence & Equity Review that tackled relationships, belonging, teaching and cultural awareness and sensitivity in classrooms across the district.
The results showed the district needs to improve its focus on diversity and other inclusion.
“We were particularly interested in hearing voices we don’t normally hear,” said Lora Nordquist, assistant superintendent. “We have groups of students that we just haven’t moved the needle with and so talking to them and their families about how we can do better is really important.”
In addition to receiving thousands of responses through a district-wide survey, the district also held nearly three dozen listening sessions with groups of parents and students.
Parents like Jennings and Wirth say it’s a step in the right direction.
“This is just the first step in a very long process but they sound committed,” Wirth said.
Jennings said “The presentation was very impressive, I feel that our district is seeing that we have a triage situation, not just with students of color but LBGTQ kids, kids with disabilities.”
The district says that while no specific actions have been decided on, they plan to begin implementing changes to acknowledge parent and student concerns over the course of the new few years.
“We need them to know that we are their allies, we need to know how to interrupt racism, we need to know how to interrupt homophobia and really take care of all of our students,” Nordquist said.