▶️ Bend-La Pine School Board addresses perceived harassment of BIPOC members

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Some Bend-La Pine School Board members believe they are being harassed and intimidated.

Protesters were outside the board meeting Tuesday night hoping to have their voices heard.

The school board said it’s their right to protest; however, there’s something simply not right about what’s happening.

One board member said BIPOC members — or black, indigenous, and people of color — are the ones most targeted.

“What is happening right now, harassment, intimidation, and targeting our BIPOC board members is intolerable and cannot continue,” said board Chairwoman Melissa Barnes Dholakia.

An opening statement by Dholakia addressed protesters and attacks on board members.

“This dark side of the community showed itself in the 2019 election, and it is happening again at an exponential level,” Dholakia said.

The local chapter of “Moms for Liberty” held a rally outside of the Bend-La Pine School District building ahead of Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

The group is frustrated it cannot attend these meetings in-person to voice its concerns.

“‘It takes a lot of courage and ‘oomph’ to come in front of the school board and make a statement, and a lot of parents aren’t comfortable doing that,” said chapter chair for Moms For Liberty, Deschutes County, Shelly Baker. “However, they are comfortable coming, and they are coming to support other parents who have the courage to speak in front of the school board and they, in their presence, are making their voice heard. That can’t be done via virtual.”

Protests have been held at the last two board meetings and listening sessions.

Dholakia said they’ve received more emails in a single week than the previous board received in a single year, and more complaints filed in the last six months than in the last decade.

“Is this about being listened to or about being provided a stage,” asked Dholakia. “What does it say not only about our community but our nation, that our board members of color are those being most frequently attacked? I think as a Central Oregon community and as the Bend-La Pine School District, we really need to sit with that, grapple with that and then we need to address that.”

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