The Mission of Oregon Safe Schools and Communities Coalition (OSSCC) is to make Oregon schools safe for all students, teachers and families. OSSCC is the only statewide organization working to decrease bullying and harassment, helping schools to become safer places, and supporting students and parents who seek information or need to report a case of bullying.
Supported by grants from Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation, OSSCC plans to build a cadre of volunteers (First Responder Task Force) around Oregon to assist us with the growing number of complaints from students and caregivers about the harassment and bullying of LGBT students in schools. So far, Phase One of this project built a database of individuals and organizations that support safe schools throughout Oregon, and have interviewed a sample of 50 to help identify needs of queer students and discuss what schools are doing to make classrooms safe.
Phase Two will allow OSSCC to convene four regional meetings (in Bend, Medford, Pendleton and La Grande) of advocates to activate this statewide Task Force of safe schools advocates to support their local community. Gatherings will be convened in 2017.
We will work with local individuals and organizations to gear each Task Force gathering to the needs of each community. Also, each agenda will be designed collaboratively to meet local needs. However, the overall goal is to build a statewide coalition to help make schools safer places.
Bend Task Force Gathering
Tuesday, March 14, 2017 was the first Task Force Gathering in Bend at Nativity Lutheran Church, hosted by PFLAG, Human Dignity Coalition and OSSCC. Cait Mills Boyce, and Sarah Jo Griffin of the Human Dignity Coalition worked with Joy Wallace and Cindy Surendorf of OSSCC for months to prepare for this meeting. Forty people from age 17 to 81 attended the gathering, representing students, teachers, parents and lots of community members from Bend, Madras, and Prineville. The evening was opened when Phil Chang, Field Representative for Senator Jeff Merkley, read a letter from the Senator supporting our work and inviting people to a Town Hall Meeting.
After introductions, people met in small groups to discuss the issues in the community related to Safe Schools, and what is needed to improve school climate so all students feel safe. Not surprising, the factors identified to improve school climate were:
- More workshops for school staff including teachers, administrators, coaches, bus drivers and club advisors.
- Identifying clear behavioral expectations.
- Expecting everyone in a school to support behavioral expectations.
- Clarifying expectations to parents so they can support at home.
- More communication in schools and the community about school climate.
The purpose of the Task Force Gatherings is to begin active conversations around the state about the importance of having a positive school climate where all students feel safe and nurtured, and how to work toward this goal. The next Task Force Gatherings will happen in Medford in May, Enterprise in September, and sometime in Pendleton.
Cait Mills Boyce, Executive Director of the Human Dignity Coalition, said “PFLAG Central Oregon is proud to join the amazing work done by Oregon Safe Schools & Communities Task Force to provide strong voices and protections for our children!”