Roseburg teachers have been encouraged by the Roseburg Education Association to stay in schools on May 8 and wear red to show support for education.
Educators across the state plan to walk out of their classroom Wednesday, May 8, if the Oregon Legislature is unable to add the $2 billion in funding for the next two-year time period.
“Some are walking out, rallying or standing together to show lawmakers that there is a funding crisis in our schools,” according to a joint statement from Roseburg Education Association President Camron Pope and Roseburg School District Human Resources Director Robert Freeman. “Roseburg Education Association is partnering with Roseburg School District to show unified support for this funding increase.”
State funding for schools has been about 21% to 38% below what research suggests districts need to be successful. According to educators asking for more funding, this has been reflected in low graduation rates, absenteeism, larger class sizes and increased problems with disruptive behavior and mental health.
Pope said he appreciated the way the Roseburg School Board handled making up the days missed because of snow. He also reiterated that he did not want children to miss out on additional instruction time.
Instead, all Roseburg Public Schools staff is encouraged to wear red to show a unified stance. “Please show your support for our schools in wearing Red for Ed on May 8th,” the joint statement said.
During the April 10 school board meeting, board members welcomed this solution and Roseburg Public Schools interim Superintendent Lee Paterson said he would likely wear a red tie in support of the teachers.
Roseburg Public Library will continue conversations with Douglas Education Service District about contracting for library services.
While the final decision and ratification of the contract would be up to the Roseburg City Council, the library commission had preliminary discussions during its Tuesday meeting.
“I like to start at yes and figure it out,” Roseburg Library Commission Chair Brian Prawitz said. “We’re talking about kids and books, which we all agree is key.”
The City of Roseburg, which runs the library, would provide a professional librarian to help with collection development, professional development and recommending library space configuration for interested school districts.
These services would most likely be offered by Youth Services Librarian Aurora Oberg. There are three school districts currently interested in professional library services.
“I think it’s totally manageable,” Oberg said. “It’s not like they’re asking me to come and teach multiple days. It’s more overseeing who they do have, making sure they are building their collection properly and doing what they can.”
Some smaller school districts in Douglas County do not have a professional librarian. Oberg said during initial conversations, it sounded like her help would be needed a few times a year at each district to oversee the staff already in place. During visits to the district she would use her expertise to provide the schools with a plan to develop collections or help train the on-site librarian and be a point person.
Oberg has been in contact with the education service district’s human resources department to see what qualifications she would need to work for them.
Additionally, the library commission discussed making a Roseburg Public Library card available to students in districts helped by Oberg’s expertise.
“In my conversations with (Douglas Education Service District Superintendent) Michael Lasher, basically the justification for a higher service fee would be access to the collection,” Roseburg City Manager Lance Colley said. “If you only wanted a couple of days a year of a person’s time, that service fee would likely be much lower.”
Roseburg Library Commissioner Laura Harvey said as long as the finances can be figured out “there is no reason not to provide these services.”
Students living within the boundaries of the Roseburg Public Schools district already have access to a free library card.
SALEM — Oregon’s foster care system has failed to shield children from abuse and they are sometimes forced to stay in refurbished jail cells and homeless shelters, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.
The 77-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court details stories of foster children being neglected or harmed while under Department of Human Services care, including a 16-year-old girl sent to a juvenile jail after she had previously tried to kill herself.
The agency has weathered years criticism over the way it treats children and has paid out tens of millions of dollars to settle previous complaints.
The lawsuit also comes as the state agency fights off criticism from lawmakers over a recent news report that found a 9-year-old girl had been placed in an out-of-state residential facility in Montana, where she was injected with Benadryl to control her behavior and went without visits from a caseworker for six months. More than 80 children are housed outside Oregon.
“The big problem is that Oregon has failed to develop specialized placements or even enough placements for kids in care,” said Marcia Lowry, executive director of A Better Childhood, one of the nonprofits behind the lawsuit. “Oregon goes well beyond what even the national problems are.”
In a statement, DHS Director Fariborz Pakseresht said the agency is committed to finding children appropriate placement, especially those with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He said it is taking steps to address the problems identified in the lawsuit, and is finalizing a long-term, statewide plan to recruit more foster families.
DHS also plans to reassess its use of out-of-state facilities, he said.
At a legislative hearing last week, Pakseresht recognized flaws within the system, but maintained that the agency still provides quality services for the 7,500 youth in its care.
“We do make mistakes,” Pakseresht told lawmakers. “A few mistakes — 10 mistakes, 20 mistakes, 30 mistakes — are never acceptable, but they don’t constitute a system that is broken.”
Since 2006, the agency has paid $39 million in legal settlements over allegations of abuse and neglect. But Christine Shank, one of the managing lawyers in the case, said the fundamental problems within DHS haven’t changed.
“We’re hoping this case can really be a catalyst for systemic change,” said Shank, a lawyer with Disability Rights Oregon.
In the case of the 16-year-old girl, lawyers say she landed in state care after her father refused to get her mental health services. Her lawyers say she remained without therapy as she was shuffled between facilities, including homeless shelters, out of a lack of placement options.
At the Klamath Falls, Oregon, facility, which houses both juvenile inmates and at-risk foster youth, lawyers say the girl lived in a cinder-block cell where she couldn’t keep any personal items except a book. She underwent daily extensive treatment for substance and sexual abuse, despite having never suffered from either. She had individualized therapy once a week, which her lawyers called inadequate.
The lawsuit argues DHS hasn’t done enough to shield children from abuse and neglect, a violation of their federal due process rights. The lawsuit also says the department has failed to provide foster children with a permanent, stable living situation.
A 2016 federal audit found only 20% of foster children had “permanency and stability in their living conditions,” while the majority were placed with foster parents who “may not have had the necessary skills” to care for them. The department made “concerted efforts” to provide children with permanent homes in 41% of cases.
Elizabeth Graves, who is not associated with the lawsuit, said she entered DHS care when she was 13, and was moved between 15 foster and group homes within five years. Now 27, she said she still suffers from nightmares over the emotional abuse she endured.
She became pregnant at 15, and said her circumstances began to improve when was sent to a Portland facility specifically serving girls who have young children or are pregnant. She received individualized attention plus parenting lessons.
But, less than an hour after Graves gave birth, she said DHS intervened and put her son up for adoption. According to Graves, her caseworker had determined she was too young to care for the child.
“I did everything to prepare for him,” she told The Associated Press. “I spent all that time at the group home learning how to take care of him and even set up a room for him. I cried and begged but they just took him from me.”
She now works as a credit card banker in Portland.
“I wouldn’t have experienced the trauma I have today if I wasn’t in foster care,” she said. “I really hope this lawsuit finally does something. Kids are suffering and nobody is doing anything.”