Pamplin Media Group – Education imperative to fight racism | #students | #parents

Recent acts by Newberg school board require that city leaders be an example to others

As a longtime Newberg resident and community member, I am concerned. While I currently reside in Lafayette, I have worked in Newberg for over 26 years. My husband and I moved to Newberg in 1979. While we left for a time, we returned to this area because it is our home.I am concerned for our community.Over the last several months I have been watching the school board meetings online. I am very troubled by what I see happening. The progress we have made in our community in creating safe spaces for all people has come under attack. It is my faith that compels me to reach out to speak out.Research is clear that our LGBTQ students are feeling unsafe. This is also true for many students of color in our community.The fact that some members of the Newberg School District board are considering repealing the anti-racism resolution, as well as the All Students Belong policy, is very troubling. What message does this send to the students in our community? In fact, what message does this send to our community at large?Mayor Rick Rogers clearly expressed at the recent board meeting how damaging it could be to our community should this board remove these important directives. For most of my life, I have worked with young people, both in the education field as well as para-church organizations. I personally have known, do know and counseled young people who have felt isolated, left out, even bullied because of the color of their skin, the accent of their voice, their gender identity or sexual orientation. What made a difference to their lives is knowing that an adult, teacher or mentor saw them, knew them and accepted them as they are. Displaying a welcoming symbol identifies allies, those who are safe for a student to approach.Have we allowed a political movement to drive our motives or a lack of compassion toward people in our community?I offer the words of Jane Elliot — an internationally known teacher, lecturer, diversity trainer and recipient of the National Mental Health Association Award for Excellence in Education. Her work is focused on exposing prejudice and bigotry for what it is, an irrational class system based upon arbitrary factors. After the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. she implemented the Brown Eyes & Blue Eyes Exercise in her third-grade classroom. The results are extremely relevant today.Jane Elliot does not mince words: “People who are racist aren’t stupid, they’re ignorant. And the answer to ignorance is education.”I implore our community to do more than just keep the anti-racism resolution and All Students Belong policy. We need to work together to create a community where hate is not tolerated and the leaders of this city come together to listen, with strength and humility as an example to others.

Jere Witherspoon is a Lafayette resident

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