Five of Oregon’s leading school organizations made a joint plea Thursday, as fall sports begin: that adults in positions of power and responsibility crack down on harassing and bullying behavior.
The Oregon School Activities Association, the State Board of Education, the Oregon Department of Education, as well as the Oregon School Boards Association and Coalition of Oregon School Administrators issued a joint statement calling on adults at sporting events and other activities to watch out for harassing and bullying behavior, and interrupt it appropriately. The groups said they’ve noticed, “increasing negativity, bullying, and even hate speech and symbols entering into these activities” in recent years.
Several incidents at school sporting events last year drew investigations, including racist behavior at Molalla and Clatskanie high school basketball games. Last fall, the La Grande School District, Gladstone School District and OSAA investigated the use of racial slurs at a November football game. The issue of racist behavior at athletic events has also surfaced nationally at the collegiate level, with an investigation into a fan’s behavior at a volleyball match between Duke University and Brigham Young University.
The statement from the Oregon school groups emphasizes the legal responsibility of adults at these competitions to respond, particularly school and activity officials.
“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 statement said.
The statement details six policies to reduce behavioral issues at sporting event::
- A recent requirement that all coaches and referees undergo training on how to interrupt discrimination,
- A complaint process related to sportsmanlike conduct,
- The OSAA’s “STAR initiative” intended to disrupt racism and discrimination,
- The state’s “Every Student Belongs” policy, which prohibits hate symbols and speech, at schools and school activities,
- And state requirements that school boards have policies prohibiting harassment and “supporting equity, opportunity and access for all students.”
The statement is signed by the leaders of the five school organizations, as well as community leader — and former member of the Oregon State Board of Education — Anthony Veliz.