Jordan Ferris

Jordan provided WLAIC with the following position statements:

Issue 1: 

Please provide your views on the issue of teaching gender orientation and gender identity within the framework of West Linn-Wilsonville curriculum

As a nurse I am deeply committed to teaching about gender orientation and identity early and often in the WLWV curriculum. I was at the board meeting where this curriculum was voted on and gave testimony in full support of it. What I was struck the most by was the support of the students for the curriculum and they urged the board to go further, to do more. I embrace and support those thoughts. To not teach gender identity and orientation is to limit the ability of our student body to do better, it limits our non-heterosexual and non-cisgender student’s ability to be seen and be heard. It limits our community to raise up every child and student. It also teaches, overtly or covertly, that we do not need to recognize those who are different from us, and that we do not need to understand those who may be “other.” Acceptance and tolerance starts young, and we need to also. 

Issue 2: 

Please provide a statement concerning your views on equity within our schools, and the critical barriers to equity that you would seek to eliminate as a school board member. 

I am extremely happy that we have moved away from conversations around equality and into conversations about equity. Equity is at the heart of my campaign and messaging. There are so many different facets of equity to address – racial, gender, socioeconomic are only three. Before we can even start looking at barriers to equity, I think we first need to figure out what they are, we need more data, data that hasn’t necessarily been collected or looked at. 

When looking at racial equity I want to make sure that we do a deep dive into our performance measures and find out why our non-white students are performing differently than our white students. We need to have the data to be able to make well-reasoned decisions and conclusions and I am not sure that that work has been done in our district. We can do better, I know that we can, but we need a direction to go in. In terms of gender equality, our girls’ sports teams deserve the same treatment as our boys’ sports teams. I know for a fact that the girls locker rooms are not as nice as the boys and several students have asked me to look into a possible Title IX violation because of it. I also want to look at enrollment in STEM and CTE. Are all of our students being given the same opportunities? That goes double for creating a new CTE school, who is going to be able to access that school? Will it be available to everyone? Or only those who can get there? Socioeconomic equity is another facet I promise to look at. Ideally, I would love to offer free breakfast and lunch to ALL students, regardless of income status. Kids cannot learn when they are hungry. More than anything I want to create school-based health centers so that kids are able to access health care (mental health, sexual health, vaccinations, queer health) on their time and not at the expense of a working parents’ paycheck or time off. 

Issue 3: 

What specific policy changes or additions would you pursue as a school board member to provide clarity to our students on the issue of addressing incidents of bigotry and hate within our schools? 

Bigotry and hate have no place in our schools – period. I looked through both of the student handbooks for the high schools and while harassment, violence, and menacing are called out, there is no specific mention of racism, bigotry or “hate” fueled interactions. Neither are these terms in any of the middle school handbooks. That is where I would start. If we do not have this language and these prohibitions in the student handbooks, where do we start with holding our children responsible? There needs to be social contracts around hate and bigotry, that it is unacceptable, and that hateful behavior will not be tolerated. While the schools have a system of discipline in place, I believe that those accused and found to be guilty of such behaviors should not be expelled. Social isolation and echo chambers are what contribute to this system of thinking. Instead, I believe that these students should be educated and be given a type of community service discipline, something that gives back to the community that has been harmed. I think that all students should be trained in de-escalation techniques and how to stand up for those being harassed. Hate and bigotry could be lumped in with bullying but I absolutely do not thinkg that they should be – hate and bigotry should be called out for what they are and be brought into the light. 

Also, let’s get the student body involved. If they are asking for guidelines, policies, and clarity, then let’s give it to them and allow them to be a large part of the process. Student groups have already demonstrated their commitment to actionable change and as they would be the ones self-policing their own student bodies, we need them to buy in and be a part of the process. I would welcome the opportunity to participate in a group like this, working with the students at all levels in the WLWV district would be so rewarding. 

Issue 4:

What else can the School Board and District administrators do to address the social problem of racism and bigotry, and build individual character evidenced in how students treat one another? 

The board can only enact policy and procedure, I think that empowering the student body to make change, to force change, is where the majority of the momentum for this will come – as it did for the health and wellness curriculum changes. Social contracts are also effective, clear and direct communications where students will actually sign their names, promising to uphold a no tolerance policy around bigotry, hatred and racism. 

Issue 5:

Would you support a more visible and inclusive recognition of Black History Month district-wide? Please explain your answer with specific reasons. 

I would absolutely support a more visible and inclusive recognition of Black History Month. There is plenty of room in our curriculum for more teaching on Black leaders and influencers. Ultimately, I would like to see an ongoing rotation of the different heritage months – Latino, Black, Women, Asian Pacific – there are so many more cultures and histories than just white. There is so much that we can learn. We could have focus groups for each month, with planned activities. Again, I would pose this to the student body and not leave it up to the 5 white individuals on the board, and as a board member I would enthusiastically support any additional culture/heritage inclusivity. We do not have a very diverse student body, 75% of students and 88% of faculty identify as white, for the other 25% of students and 12% of faculty, I am sure it would be refreshing to see more representation in district wide activities and offerings. We have 58 languages spoken in our district but how many times have we highlighted a Filipino poet or a Latinx scholar? There is so much opportunity for us to do better in this area. When you start at the bottom rung, the only place to go is up.