State Board of Education calls on districts to foster safe spaces for students

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The Oregon State Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution Friday calling on Oregon’s school districts to foster the creation of safe space for students.

The Resolution Encouraging Solidarity and Support for Student Identities specifically calls on the Newberg School Board to encourage district staff to celebrate and stand in solidarity with students through the use of signs, flags, placards and symbols, and affirm in words, policy and action that Every Student Belongs and is welcome, appreciated and ensured an equitable access to a high quality education in Newberg Public Schools.

“Equity does not mean that one side gets ignored or favored. It is quite the opposite: we have a responsibility to create and maintain humane, livable spaces for children who have consistently lived on the brink of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion,” said Guadalupe Martinez-Zapata, Vice-Chair of the Oregon State Board of Education. “A minimal demonstration of that humanity, a flag, a banner, a sign, is all it could take for a student to feel safe. Each student is unique, and every one deserves our love and care.”

The resolution also encourages all districts to show in actions and in words that every student is affirmed in their identities and is made welcome in their schools, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, native language, immigration status, documentation status, age or disability.

“Now more than ever, we must work to ensure that our schools are safe and welcoming spaces for every student. We know that has not always been the case – in particular for our students of color, Indigenous, Tribal citizens, immigrants, English learners, and LGBTQ2SIA+ students, as well as our students who experience disability,” said Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill. “Student identity should be supported and celebrated, and we must recognize the unique needs and  perspectives that our students bring.”

School districts can welcome and affirm student identity by modeling the use of inclusive language, encouraging the proactive creation of safe and affirming spaces, and engaging in honest and authentic dialogue with students on who they are and how best to serve their needs. School boards can also adopt similar resolutions, in consultation with their local communities.

The Oregon State Board of Education and the Oregon Department of Education remain committed to ensuring Oregon’s schools are safe and inclusive for all students and staff, and have made guidance, educational resources, and toolkits available.

The resolution affirms that symbolism of pride and Black Lives Matters slogans and insignia are statements of love and affirmation, and indicate support and solidarity for students. They do not meet the requirements of a hate symbol nor are they attached to specific political candidates or parties.

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