▶️ Black History Month: Parents urge schools to work on fostering inclusion, addressing inequality

By ANYSSA BOHANAN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY

Jen Jennings and Claire Liew’s experiences having children of color in Bend La Pine Schools hasn’t always been the best.

“Racism, micro-aggressions, those started in kindergarten for my kiddos,” Jennings said, referring to subtle and often unintentional racial prejudices directed at someone. 

“There have been some incidences when my daughter has had something said to her at school and felt that she couldn’t say anything back,” Liew added.

Liew and Jennings say that often those racist ideations begin at home.

“Sunday night my son got a text message from a friend at school and she said, ‘My mom used the n-word like 100 times during the game tonight,” Jennings said. 

Jennings and Liew are asking that the school district not only teach about more positive aspects of black history, but also implement a curriculum that will address racism and inequality in schools, something that students may not be learning at home.

Wendy Winchel, principal at Westside Village Magnet School, says she has heard parents’ concerns and the school is currently working on an equity project.

“Students and staff are learning to interrupt so when we hear micro-aggressions that we have the confidence to stand up and get some help because that’s really important to stand in the people’s shoes that those aggressions are being directed at,” Winchel said. 

In December, 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,” Assistant Superintendent Lora Nordquist said at the time. “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.”

The district didn’t take any specific actions in December, but said they planned 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 then.  

In the future, Liew and Jennings would like all schools to provide more diverse teachings in the classroom.

“We’re different colors, we’re different ethnicities, we’re different races.” she said. “See the color and celebrate it.”

 

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