Increasing mental health services top priority in Salem-Keizer schools

Photo by ANNA REED / Statesman Journal

Salem and Keizer community members have become far too familiar with the crushing news of student death by suicide.

Several teen suicides have been reported since 2016 alone, with some coming in waves of what experts call “clusters” — one after the other in a short period of time.

Salem-Keizer Public Schools officials are taking multiple steps in the new year to prioritize the health and safety of the district’s nearly 42,000 students.

Read the full story here.


Ethics commission dismisses Jefferson school complaints

brown wooden gavel close up photography

Five complaints against the Jefferson School Board over the hiring of the district’s new superintendent have been dismissed by the Oregon Government Ethics Commission after determining the board did not violate executive session rules.

However, the commission did not examine separate questions regarding open meetings law violations outlined in an investigation by the Statesman Journal earlier this year.

Read the full follow story here.

Oregonians: Tips to start saving for college

money coins cash currency

Anyone can start saving for their future and their children’s. Anyone.

Regardless of a students’ age, where they live, or their socio-economic, citizenship or veteran statuses, Oregon agencies have dozens of ways to save money for college or trade school.

And they want the process to be as simple as possible.

Read more here.

Survivor of Nazi twin experiments brings her story to Salem

black metal train rails

At 14, Jona Laks waited with her two sisters to be sorted between forced labor and the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

It was 1944 and Laks remembers herself as skinny, pale and underdeveloped. She’d been incarcerated with her family in the Łódź ghetto of Poland. It’d been two years since her parents had been taken to a Nazi extermination camp.

Laks and her twin, Miriam, would endure a year of the notorious Joseph Mengele human experiments before moving to other camps in Germany. For decades since, she’s carried with her the memories of one of the worst atrocities in human history — the systematic murder of millions of Jewish people.

Read Laks’ story here.

Reform coming to Chemawa Indian School in Salem

grey concrete buildings

After almost two years of stonewalling by Chemawa Indian School officials and the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici say reform appears to be coming after visiting the Salem school this past week.

The Oregon Democrats were “pleasantly surprised” by apparent progress and expect more clarity about conflicting federal agencies’ roles, removal of a gag order on school staff and a better system for hiring teachers, among other things, in the near future.

The representatives have been pushing for change since before 2017, when an investigative series by Oregon Public Broadcasting highlighted allegations of fraud, mismanagement, lack of transparency and abuse at the Native American boarding school.

Read the full story here.

Students demand action from school board: How will you protect us?


A group of students and graduates want the Salem-Keizer School Board to do more to protect and help immigrant students in Salem-Keizer Public Schools.

“You guys get mad when we decide to march, to sit-in, to speak up for ourselves and others, but when we die, you guys become silent,” one graduate told the board.

“And when approached about the topic, all you seem to say is ‘that’s sad’ and ‘I’m sorry,’ as if your ‘sorry’ really does or means something.”

Read the full story here.

Students pursue graduation through credit recovery programs

chairs classroom college desks

Nearly 1,500 high school students across Salem-Keizer Public Schools are back in class this summer.

They’re putting in extra hours four or five days a week to earn credits needed to graduate, repair past grades or improve their chances of getting into college.

The district’s black and Pacific Islander students perhaps stand to gain the most from these “credit recovery” programs since they historically have graduated at lower rates, attended school less frequently and scored lower on standardized tests than their peers.

And although they make up only a small percentage of the overall student body — with about 1% of Salem-Keizer’s nearly 42,000 students identifying as Black/African American and 2% identifying as Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander — the school district is just as responsible for making sure they succeed as other students.

Read the full story here.



Students challenge Salem-Keizer’s ‘archaic’ and ‘sexist’ dress code, district to revamp

woman sitting on chair beside green plant

A group of students and parents are calling on Salem-Keizer Public Schools to update what they describe as an “archaic” and “sexist” dress code policy.

The controversy isn’t unique to Salem-Keizer schools — or the state of Oregon.

But district officials say they’ve been working on updating the dress code for a while and may release a revised code as early as this week in time for the 2019-20 school year.

“Girls are growing up and they want to express themselves,” said Claire Campbell, a 14-year-old helping lead the charge. “As an educational environment, we should encourage how the students want to dress and not shut it down with old dress codes.

“When women are told that we are distracting, that is treating us like sexual objects,” she said. “How do you think that makes us feel?”

Read the full story here.

Student deaths, lack of accountability at Chemawa bring heat from Congress

architecture bright building capitol

Teachers and parents of children who died in the care of Chemawa Indian School, or shortly after being removed from the facility, are demanding that Congress hold the Salem boarding school accountable.

For over a year and a half, Oregon U.S. Reps. Kurt Schrader and Suzanne Bonamici have been pressing for answers from the Department of Interior on issues raised by an Oregon Public Broadcasting investigative series, which highlighted allegations of fraud, mismanagement, lack of transparency and abuse at the school.

The series reported on the deaths of three Chemawa students, one of whom died on campus and two of whom died shortly after leaving the school. A fourth student, Robert Tillman, died in Wyoming less than two weeks after leaving Chemawa, after the series was published.

Repeatedly, Schrader and Bonamici have not been allowed to speak with anyone at the school. Questions they’ve submitted to the federal agency either have not been answered, or have taken multiple months for a response.

The House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on May 16 in Washington, D.C., to receive testimony on Chemawa and discuss possible solutions.

Read the full story here.


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