School Climate & Safety

Oregon District Tackles Attitudes

By Lesli A. Maxwell — February 07, 2006 1 min read

When Bill Korach witnessed white high school students heckling an African-American basketball player with chants of “fifth-year senior” and “you can’t read” at a game last school year, the Lake Oswego school district superintendent knew he had a problem that required outside help.

The basketball game was one of several incidents in which Lake Oswego students humiliated their peers, driving Mr. Korach to create a “respectful-culture committee” in the 7,100-student district in suburban Portland, Ore.

The superintendent enlisted 15 community members, many of them parents with children in the district, to dig into the underlying reasons for the behavior. The panel—with members who have expertise in psychology, social work, and corrections—held its first meeting late last month.

“These incidents we were seeing were very different,” Mr. Korach said. “There were cases of students bringing video cameras to record some of these incidents. It seemed like a sport to them.”

Sue Hildick, the president of the Chalkboard Project, a coalition of Oregon foundations working with the public to improve schools, said many districts have adopted classroom curricula to teach civility, but Lake Oswego’s efforts could be among the first to tackle the issue at the district level.

Popular culture, particularly television reality shows whose currency is humiliating participants, is a likely influence on recent incidents, Mr. Korach said. And technology popular with teenagers—text messaging, Web logs, and e-mail—makes bullying more anonymous and humiliation more public.

Lake Oswego’s demographics—largely white and affluent—may also be influencing attitudes and behavior, he said. “When we talked to the kids who were riding the black basketball player, they weren’t aware at all of how those messages would be received. They didn’t see it as a racial dynamic at all.”

Now, it’s up to the committee to help district leaders figure out how pervasive such misunderstandings and attitudes are among students and propose ideas for addressing them.

“One of the things we will do is talk to students and find a way for them to be as candid as possible with us,” said Marci Nemhauser, the psychologist who is chairing the committee. “Then, we need to find ways to teach our students strategies and skills to handle these situations.”

Related Tags:

Events

Student Well-Being Webinar Boosting Teacher and Student Motivation During the Pandemic: What It Takes
Join Alyson Klein and her expert guests for practical tips and discussion on how to keep students and teachers motivated as the pandemic drags on.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Holistic Approach to Social-Emotional Learning
Register to learn about the components and benefits of holistically implemented SEL.
Content provided by Committee for Children
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and well-being during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Arizona School Data Analyst - (AZVA)
Arizona, United States
K12 Inc.
Software Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Proposal Writer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools

Read Next

School Climate & Safety Opinion Teaching's 'New Normal'? There's Nothing Normal About the Constant Threat of Death
As the bizarre becomes ordinary, don't forget what's at stake for America's teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic, writes Justin Minkel.
4 min read
14Minkel IMG
Gremlin/E+
School Climate & Safety Letter to the Editor Invisibility to Inclusivity for LGBTQ Students
To the Editor:
I read with interest “The Essential Traits of a Positive School Climate” (Special Report: “Getting School Climate Right: A Guide for Principals,” Oct. 14, 2020). The EdWeek Research Center survey of principals and teachers provides interesting insight as to why there are still school climate issues for LGBTQ students.
1 min read
School Climate & Safety As Election 2020 Grinds On, Young Voters Stay Hooked
In states like Georgia, the push to empower the youth vote comes to fruition at a time when “every vote counts” is more than just a slogan.
6 min read
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Young people celebrate the presidential election results in Atlanta. Early data on the 2020 turnout show a spike in youth voting, with Georgia, which faces a pair of senatorial runoffs, an epicenter of that trend.
Brynn Anderson/AP
School Climate & Safety Opinion The Pandemic Is Raging. Here's How to Support Your Grieving Students
What do students who have experienced a loss need in the classroom? Brittany R. Collins digs into the science.
Brittany R. Collins
5 min read
13Collins IMG
Benjavisa Ruangvaree/iStock