The Oregon Department of Education, Oregon School Activities Association, and other organizations have notified schools of anti-bullying and anti-harassment requirements.
Communities throughout Oregon rely on student activities and athletic events to be a safe haven of support and collegiality. These activities are important places where students, families, and staff can join together with pride and enthusiasm that comes with community, competition, and celebration.
At each event that happens at a school, so many people have shared their time and energy to make it a great experience for everyone who attends. Students put hours, weeks, and sometimes years into their performances, whether artistic, academic, or athletic. It takes us all working together to ensure that these activities remain welcoming and fun.
Unfortunately, it only takes one incident to create a negative experience that can frighten and intimidate students and families, limit student participation, suppress volunteer interest, erode community support and reputation, and interfere with the benefits that these activities would otherwise bring to everyone involved. It only takes one incident to impart long lasting harm to an individual or community.
Since before 2019 and continuing into recent years, our organizations have become aware of increasing negativity, bullying, and even hate speech and symbols entering into these activities. We are also dedicated to preventing and responding to harassing conduct. Harassing conduct may take many forms, including verbal intimidation and name-calling; graphic and written statements, which include use of cell phones or the Internet; costumes or other physical expressions; or other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating. Harassment does not have to include intent to harm, be directed at a specific person or group, or involve repeated incidents.
Each person who is at a school event is able to help make it great. School administrators, event managers, and athletic directors are required to enforce existing policies (listed below) and set their own proactive measures to prevent harassment. They must have a plan in place to discourage and respond to negative behavior. Students can walk into events ready to cheer on their peers without bringing negativity towards others. Spectators and other adults must set a good example by lifting people up, not tearing people down.
When harassment or bullying happens at events based on age, disability, national origin, race, color, marital status, religion, gender identity, and sexual orientation, it violates civil rights laws that our organizations are required to enforce.
The following policies apply to schools in Oregon in these situations:
1. At their recent summer workshop, the OSAA Executive Board reviewed and approved OSAA’s Interrupting and Preventing Discriminatory Acts Training, which is a new, one-time certification requirement for all athletic directors, coaches, and officials beginning this Fall. This training is in response to an uptick in discriminatory acts taking place across the country and an increased focus from the National Federation of State High School Associations on sportsmanship in all sports. It is intended to increase awareness and intentional planning/communication for interscholastic events.
2. The OSAA has a complaint response process guide and complaint form which help districts to adhere to Rule 3 of the handbook, requiring sportsmanlike conduct. The OSAA will sanction schools whom it has found negligent in the duties of reasonably protecting those involved in interscholastic activities from derogatory or inappropriate names, insults, verbal assaults, profanity, ridicule or engaging in behavior deemed by the member school to endanger the safety or wellbeing of students, employees, self or others.
3. The OSAA launched the S.T.A.R. Initiative to encourage Safety, Tolerance, Acceptance and Respect at Oregon high school athletic events while disrupting racism and combatting discrimination. The initiative includes pregame announcements to encourage a positive focus on the student competitors and position hateful, intimidating, and bullying behavior by anyone, including athletes, parents and community members, as completely unacceptable.
4. Every district in Oregon is required to adopt an Every Student Belongs policy by state law, which applies to hate symbols and bias incidents that may occur at athletic events and school activities. We recommend that in addition to these policies, athletic directors and event managers should be well-versed in their district’s policies and procedures, as well as ODE’s guidance for responding to bias incidents.
5. Every school board in Oregon is required to adopt a policy in accordance with ORS 339.356 prohibiting harassment, intimidation or bullying and prohibiting cyberbullying. These policies carry over to school-sponsored events and must be adhered to during extracurricular activities. School districts are encouraged to develop the policy after consultation with parents and guardians, school employees, volunteers, students, administrators and community representatives.
6. Every school board is required to adopt written policies which assure equity, opportunity and access for all students in each school and program as provided in OAR 581-021-0045 and 581-021-0046. This extends to school-sponsored activities and events.
In addition to these policies, we implore all of Oregon’s education associations, schools, and districts to take their own proactive measures to show that behavior that is insulting, demeaning or hurtful will not be tolerated in our communities.
Let’s create a culture in our communities and at our events that values the worth of every single person.
Peter Weber, Executive Director, Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA)
Guadalupe Martinez Zapata, Chair of the Oregon State Board of Education
Jim Green, Executive Director, Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA)
Craig Hawkins, Executive Director, Coalition of Oregon School Administrators (COSA)
Anthony Veliz, Community Leader
Colt Gill, Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction, Oregon Department of Education (ODE)