Oregon: Terminating Bullying And Discrimination At School Events And In Athletics

Student activities and sporting competitions serve as a refuge of support and camaraderie for communities across Oregon. These events play a significant role in bringing students, family, and staff together in a spirit of community, competition, and celebration.

Everyone who attends a school event benefits from the time and effort that so many people volunteer to make it a success. When it comes to creative, intellectual, or athletic performances, students invest hours, weeks, and even years. To maintain the friendliness and enjoyment of these events, we must all work together.

Sadly, it only takes one incident to produce a bad impression that can scare and intimidate students and families, restrict student participation, stifle volunteer interest, erode community support and reputation, and obstruct the advantages that these activities would otherwise bring to everyone involved. One incident is all it takes to permanently harm a person or community.

Our groups have become aware of an increase in negativity, bullying, and even hate speech and symbols entering these events beginning before 2019 and continuing into recent years. Additionally, we are committed to stopping harassment and taking appropriate action. A person who engages in harassing behavior may do so in a variety of ways, such as through verbal intimidation and name-calling, graphic and written statements made through the use of a cell phone or the Internet, the wearing of costumes or other physical expressions, or other actions that could be physically dangerous, harmful, or humiliating. Harassment need not require repeated episodes, being targeted at a particular individual or group, or having malicious intent.

Every person present at a school event has the power to contribute to its success. In order to prevent harassment, school officials, event coordinators, and athletic directors are obligated to uphold the laws currently in place (which are stated below). They must have a strategy in place for discouraging bad behavior and dealing with it. Students can attend gatherings prepared to support their friends without bringing ill will. Adults who are watching and participating must offer a positive example by building others up rather than knocking them down.

Our organizations are mandated to uphold civil rights laws, therefore when harassment or bullying occurs at events based on age, disability, national origin, race, color, marital status, religion, gender identity, or sexual orientation, it violates those laws.

In certain circumstances, the following policies are applicable to Oregonian schools:

1. At a recent summer session, the OSAA Executive Board examined and approved the organization’s new, one-time certification requirement for all athletic directors, coaches, and officials starting this Fall: Interrupting and Preventing Discriminatory Acts Training. This training is in reaction to a rise in discriminatory incidents across the nation and the National Federation of State High School Associations’ heightened emphasis on good sportsmanship in all sports. It aims to promote awareness and deliberate planning/communication for extracurricular activities.

Terminating Bullying And Discrimination At School Events
Terminating Bullying And Discrimination At School Events

2. To assist districts in following Rule 3 of the handbook, which mandates sportsmanlike behavior, the OSAA has developed a complaint response procedure guide and complaint form. The OSAA will punish schools that it finds to have been careless in their obligations to reasonably protect those taking part in interscholastic activities from insults, verbal abuse, profanity, ridicule, and other actions that could put the safety or wellbeing of students, staff members, oneself, or others in danger.

3. To address racism and discrimination, the OSAA developed the S.T.A.R. Initiative, which promotes safety, tolerance, acceptance, and respect at high school athletic events in Oregon. Pregame announcements are part of the endeavor to promote support for the student competitors and to condemn any hateful, intimidating, or bullying behavior on the part of athletes, parents, or community members.

4. The state statute requiring the adoption of an Every Student Belongs policy in Oregon extends to situations involving hate signs and bias at sporting events and other school-related activities. We advise athletic directors and event coordinators to be familiar with their district’s rules and procedures in addition to these guidelines, as well as ODE’s recommendations for handling prejudiced situations.

5. According to ORS 339.356, every school board in Oregon must develop a policy that forbids harassment, intimidation, or bullying as well as cyberbullying. These regulations apply to school-sponsored activities and must be followed when participating in extracurricular pursuits. It is recommended that school districts create the policy after consulting with parents, legal guardians, staff members, volunteers, students, administrators, and members of the local community.

6. As stated in OAR 581-021-0045 and 581-021-0046, every school board is obliged to create written rules that ensure fairness, opportunity, and access for all students in every school and program. This includes events and activities that the school sponsors.

We urge all of Oregon’s schools, districts, and education associations to adopt their own proactive actions in addition to these regulations to demonstrate that offensive, humiliating, or harmful behavior won’t be permitted in our communities.

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