A new Seaside School District policy will prohibit the use or display of hate symbols on school grounds or in any district- or school-sponsored program, activity or event, except as part of educational curriculum.
The All Students Belong policy, approved by the district’s board of directors during a meeting in December, identifies symbols of hate as a “symbol, image or object that expresses animus on the basis of race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability or national origin.” This includes the noose, swastika and Confederate flag.
The state passed All Students Belong as a health and safety rule after a student sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown in July, asking for help.
“Banning the Confederate flag is far more than just an act to please some people,” the student wrote. “It shows students and educators that the state of Oregon sees them in their struggles to be considered equal and aiding in the fight against racism.”
In response, Brown urged educators to take action to address the adverse impact hate symbols and hate speech have on students.
In a September letter instructing superintendents and districts to adopt policies and procedures prohibiting the use and display of hate symbols, the Oregon Department of Education said that this student’s experience is not alone.
In the past few years, the department has received complaints and been made aware of multiple incidents involving hate symbols that have disrupted education for students across Oregon.
The district’s new policy applies to both in-person and distance learning. In responding to the use of any symbols of hate, the district will use nondisciplinary remedial action whenever appropriate.
At the meeting, the district also adopted a new procedure for how staff members, administrators and other leadership should proceed if they witness or hear about a potential bias incident.
According to Superintendent Susan Penrod, staff from all schools will be trained on the details of both the policy and the administrative rule, and it will be enforced districtwide. She also plans to present more in-depth information to parents, families and the community this month.
The policy is arriving as the district is nearly three years into completing comprehensive work on equity.
“Embedded in our mission is the word ‘equitable,’” said Sande Brown, director of curriculum in Seaside.
Sande Brown will help spearhead the effort with assistance from two consultants from the California-based National Equity Project, Ana Moreno and Tom Malarkey.
According to Sande Brown, the district’s equity team is taking a complex systemic approach.
“In a system like a school district, there are many, many moving parts,” she added.
Over the past few years, the team has met with administrators, staff members and teachers to clarify what equity means and identify what education would look like if the schools were serving students and families equitably.
“As we move into the building, what are the policies and procedures, as well as the design, that we could have in place to be equitable?” Sande Brown said.
The team is also working to figure out how to embed equity into the system, which means approaching policy, procedure and practice through an equity lens.
“You have a series of questions to ask yourself as you’re planning and making decisions for your district,” Sande Brown explained. Questions like, “Who does it impact?” “Who has opportunities and who does not?” and “Whose voices are at the table and whose voices are not?”
The answers to these questions should guide the district and everyone who serves within it as they make determinations about budget, curriculum, instruction and building design, for example.
Penrod is also developing a student advisory group and parent advisory groups to help guide the process.
Board member Sondra Gomez said she is grateful to have taken part in many of the conversations regarding equity.
“It was good insight to hear what people are feeling currently, as well as how we can continue to look at ways to serve all the students in the district,” she said.