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On this critical anniversary...

Nearly five years ago, Donald Trump's campaign for president caused an escalation of hate crimes, outbursts of racism, and antisemitism in the name of making our country "great." Not long after that, we had racist and antisemitic bullying in schools across Oregon - including swastikas scrawled on bathroom walls.

Today, we celebrate the anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case that decided segregation in schools was unjust because it denied children an equal educational opportunity. I'm reflecting back on the great work we have done – and how much farther we have to go.

For nearly three decades, Oregon's public education system has faced disinvestment and a lack of resources, hurting those who need direct support the most. We've made it harder for our children to have healthy learning environments where they spend much of their youth. And with this spring's closure of schools, many children do not have the tools they need to continue their studies and keep them on track.

Unfortunately, it's no coincidence that systemic failures hit families of color the hardest. The children and families who have historically been systemically oppressed – and consequently underserved – are facing barriers to access distance learning, have family members serving on the frontline, and are losing to the COVID-19 pandemic. The consequences of such adversity could be lifelong.

When I became a State Senator, I took an oath to protect all Oregonians – especially our marginalized, most vulnerable communities where it matters most. For me, that work starts in our schools. I'm proud to leverage my privilege and bring voices to the table who needed to be heard in order to influence decision making through a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens, supporting a community response. Coming from a family of educators, I take this oath very seriously.

I was proud to partner with my colleagues to champion the Student Success Act, a transformative bill that puts the needs of our most vulnerable students first. This means supporting mental health services. It means investing in historically marginalized students. And it means that no child, no matter their race or gender or economic background, is intentionally denied equal educational opportunity.

When I look at our public schools, I see young people leading the way on issues like civics education, sensible gun safety, protecting students from cyber-bullying, and equitable curriculum that exposes discrimination and hate. They are seeking opportunities to make the best of their lives – not just for themselves, but for their classmates, too.

That is the spirit of Brown v. Board, but the legacy is still being written.

It's up to us – the adults, the community leaders – to show young people that we too can lead with courage and demand a better future for everyone. Especially when the times get tough.



Posted on May 17, 2020.