Senator Rob Wagner, Working for Our Schools

by William House    

Senator Rob Wagner spoke to over 50 of his Lake Oswego and West Linn constituents on Wednesday, April 17th about two bills he is moving through the State Legislature. Senate Bill 664 will require school districts to provide instruction about the Holocaust and genocide, and Senate Bill 52 will legally require school districts in Oregon to adopt policies on suicide prevention. The meeting was hosted by the West Linn Alliance for Inclusive Community, Respond to Racism, and Mary’s Woods Diversity Taskforce, and it was held at Cascadia Hall in Mary’s Woods.

The Bill requiring Holocaust and genocide education was inspired by the late Alter Wiener and initially championed by Lakeridge High School student Claire Sarnowski. Mr. Wiener was a Holocaust survivor and has inspired many by sharing the story of his survival and perseverance during that dark time in his life. Senator Wagner emphasized that the true value in this educational initiative is not just learning historical facts about past events, but understanding the social and cultural mindsets that lead to these acts of mass inhumanity.

“Education is our great social equalizer.” This quote by State Senator James Manning Jr. reminds us that genocide is not just a thing of the past. It continues today and knowing the history and why it happened is the only way to be prepared to recognize the danger and stop this type of collective social sickness before it begins again in the future.

Senate Bill 52 is a significant step forward in improving the health and safety of students in our schools. The Bill recognizes that Oregon is one of three states that don’t have suicide prevention plans in their schools. This Bill would change that situation and, “send a clear message that all young people, no matter how they identify or who they love, should see a future for themselves in Oregon.”

Small group discussions following Senator Wagner’s presentation identified the clear need for resource allocation to schools for implementation of the Bill 52 mandate. One audience member reminded the group that identification of a student thinking of suicide is not enough; you need to have the infrastructure in place to help the student. Simply recognizing their problem and sending them home is no solution.

Health resources in schools is an active topic in the current local school board elections. West Linn School Board candidate Jordan Ferris (Director, Position 4) has said “More than anything I want to create school-based health centers so that kids are able to access health care.” She points out that children who are hungry, sick, mentally unwell, or feeling unsafe cannot focus on the educational opportunities schools provide.

Most importantly, both of these Bills require not only a commitment from our State Government, but they also need a commitment from our local communities to fight for adequate resources and to ensure the implementation of meaningful curriculum. Get involved in making our schools even better and let your voice be heard. Exercise your rights and obligation as a citizen and vote for school board candidates who will work for your vision of the future.

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