Racist Incident at Oregon High School Basketball Game Prompts Bill Requiring Equity and Inclusion Policies

It spurred legislators to draft a bill requiring that schools take action against derogatory behavior displayed in sports and other activities.

In January, a racist incident at St. Helens High School during a game against the Parkrose High School girls' basketball team drew outrage from students, community members and state legislators.

The incident—where several St. Helens students allegedly used racial slurs and made monkey noises at black Parkrose players—was part of what students of Parkrose describe as a pattern of racial harassment while traveling to rival school St. Helens.

Related: Athletes at Oregon's Most Diverse High School Describe a Yearslong Pattern of Racial Harassment When They Travel to a Rival School

It also spurred legislators to draft a bill requiring that schools take action against derogatory behavior displayed in sports and other activities.

House Bill 3409—which is sponsored by Rep. Janelle Bynum (D-Happy Valley), Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland) and House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland)—prohibits schools from hosting interscholastic activities unless they develop and adopt policies on "equality, civility, dignity and civil rights."

The bill unanimously passed the Oregon House today and now moves on to the Senate.

Specifically, it outlines that schools or organizations must implement policies that address the use of derogatory names, profanities or ridicule that occur during extracurricular activities—including when spectators are the ones hurling insults. It also requires the development of complaint processes and clear responses or sanctions.

Bynum says, "When we send kids to play sports or participate in other activities through school, we expect that they will be treated with dignity and respect. If they are not, we expect the organizers of those interscholastic events to step in and take corrective action to preserve a fair, just, and respectful environment."

Smith Warner adds: "This legislation is an important step in promoting the kind of respectful environment I believe everyone would want for their kids."

Willamette Week's journalism is funded, in part, by our readers. Your help supports local, independent journalism that informs, educates, and engages our community. Become a WW supporter.