Healthy and Accessible Learning Environments

School boards across the state have been ground zero in the work to defend democracy and ensure that everyone in rural Oregon has access to quality education. Together as a network of more than 80 autonomous human dignity groups, ROP identified healthy and accessible learning environments for all children as a crucial destination on the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon, and we have been working towards that vision for years now.

While we already shared some of the organizing happening around school boards in Newberg and Grants Pass, we know that so many other communities are grappling with how to defend the victories we have won in the classroom. From pushing school spaces to be affirming of LGBTQ2SIA+ students and students of color to ensuring that all K-12 students learn about the diverse cultures, backgrounds and perspectives that are creating the world we live in today, our persistent work in the classroom has made real improvements to public education over the decades. With that comes push back, and this year at least 10 Oregon school district superintendents have been fired by school boards who wanted them to disregard state mandates or disapproved that they were teaching the history of race and racism in our state and in our country. Many school board members and school staff have also been receiving violent threats to their safety both at school board meetings and as they go about their daily lives.

These sorts of moments are what ROP is built for. In 1993 when the Oregon Citizens Alliance attempted to pass local ballot measures that dehumanized and further marginalized queer people, groups across the ROP network worked at the local level drawing on their strengths of being locally rooted, while they also strategized together across large distances to learn what was working and what wasn’t. Whether it’s sharing tools around safety and security so that organizers aren’t harmed by Proud Boys in Newberg, or amplifying calls to support trans youth when they walk out of school to protest anti-trans administrators in Grants Pass, the ROP network works in solidarity across the entire state. Next year, we’re turning 30 years old and we aren’t slowing down!

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To make sure ROP remains strong for the long haul, please consider supporting our work in creating healthy and accessible learning environments for all children. We refuse to back down. In the coming year, we expect to support human dignity groups across the state in defending the health and well-being of students, teachers and all other school staff while continuing to improve the curriculum to provide a complete picture of our communities and the history that led us to today. Are there particular resources your group is looking for? When workers in Wallula Washington faced a massive COVID-19 outbreak at their Tyson meatpacking plant, ROP answered their call. With many of the local students working at the plant post-graduation, one of the projects that the human dignity group, Friends of Tyson Workers, built out of that fight was deepening the local schools’ curriculum around labor organizing and workers’ rights. 

Does your group need support recruiting and training candidates to run for the school board or other local office? Or to defend their seats against Right-wing opponents? Are you a student group looking for resources to make your voices heard? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us by emailing emma@rop.org. We would love to hear from you!

This month, you can make a financial contribution to support ROP and realize the ambitions of the Roadmap to a Thriving Rural Oregon we’re creating together. Please make a contribution today that is meaningful to you to keep ROP strong for years to come! 

Also, be on the lookout for ROP’s 2021 Annual Report which will be arriving in your mailbox this week!

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