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Statement Against Hate and Violence from the Coalition of Oregon School Administrators

The Coalition of Oregon School Administrators stands firmly on the principles of safety, belonging, and respect for each student, staff member, and family in our Oregon schools. COSA supports the Tigard Tualatin School District, its School Board, and its community in denouncing all hatred and violence. As educational leaders, being a part of protection and prevention against hate begins with naming it, taking a stand against it, and speaking with our community about it.

At COSA, we believe each student, family, and staff member has a shared responsibility to ensure a school environment that upholds principles of safety, belonging, and respect. Beyond tolerance, which merely acknowledges difference, safety and respect create a space where every person is acknowledged in their humanity — inclusive of our background, abilities, race, religion, income, language, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Across the U.S., school communities are experiencing polarization and threats to schools. During this past week, Hazelbrook Middle School students, Tigard Tualatin School District administrators and staff, and school board members received threats of violence. There is no justification that makes violence reasonable. Pretenses and excuses are nothing more than thinly veiled (and often overt) hatred for anyone who seems somehow different, and those who are striving to make sure everyone is welcome in our schools and communities.  These senseless acts only serve to cause trauma, inflict fear, and deepen divides within communities.

In this case with the Tigard Tualatin School District, the threats were accompanied by rhetoric and vitriol focused on hate and bigotry towards students in the LGBTQ+ community. They are children and occupy a protected class in the state of Oregon and nationally. The reason laws are in place to protect people is to prevent hatred and bigotry from damaging people’s lives. Hate and threats of harm have become far too commonplace in recent times, bubbling up to the surface in a way that requires immediate, vocal response so that toxic and tragic events don’t become background noise. If desensitized, we cannot process the devastating impacts of violence and hate. And worse, we may fail to take more intensive steps to protect against and prevent instances of hate and harm. It cannot be said often enough or loudly enough: Violence of any kind is not acceptable.

Hate has many forms. It begins with othering and placing blame on another group outside of one’s own. It invites bias and discrimination and leads to the acceptance and tolerance of violence. In all of its forms, hate destroys. It destroys communities, relationships, and trust.

In schools, we challenge our students to think critically, consider situations from multiple perspectives, and seek solutions that help make the community a better place. Even when we disagree, we forge a civil path forward. This is the foundation of a strong, multi-racial democracy that gives everyone a voice. This is what we hope for each student in our state.

Each student is precious and worthy of our care. Justice and healing are possible if we center love instead of compounding violence. This starts with supporting our students in the classroom and being a role model in the community. For each one of us, it is a call to demonstrate to our students our commitment to care for each and every one of them. We will gladly continue this conversation with open hearts and open doors to join together in stopping hate and preventing violence in all forms.

Craig Hawkins, Executive Director
Coalition of Oregon School Administrators