An ugly incident on Jan. 23 apparently was the final straw that led to introduction of House Bill 3409 in the Oregon Legislature. Yet rules already are in place to deal with what happened during a girls basketball game between St. Helens High School and Parkrose High School, and school officials are working to beef up those rules.
The incident itself should shock the conscience of all Oregonians. Three supporters of the St. Helens team aimed racial taunts and monkey noises at members of the Parkrose team. Worse, it’s apparently one of a series of similar problems at St. Helens that stretch back several years. Parkrose, a school in which 28 languages are spoken, is the most racially diverse high school in Oregon.
Lawmakers have responded to the problem with remarkable speed. House Bill 3409 was introduced in the Legislature after the incident occurred. It would require school districts to develop and adopt policies on “equality, civility, dignity and civil rights” for all interscholastic activities, from concerts to basketball games. It sailed through the House on Thursday on a unanimous vote and awaits action in the Senate.
That’s all well and good, but it ignores the fact that the Oregon School Activities Association and its member schools already were working to beef up existing policies governing such boorish behavior. Today, misbehaving spectators can be asked to leave games and other activities, and referees, including those at St. Helens High, have the right to eject misbehaving coaches and athletes. St. Helens’ conduct codes also prohibit the behavior.
OSAA’s executive director, Peter Weber, testified April 3 on the measure before the House Rules Committee. OSAA already is addressing the matter, he said. He asked the committee to give the OSAA group of member schools, the state Department of Education and representatives of the school administrators’ and school board associations time to complete and put their own changes in place.
Lawmakers clearly do not believe that effort will be enough.
That’s unfortunate. The men and women working with OSAA have been focused on the task for over a month, and unlike lawmakers, the group has no other agenda but to get this one important matter right. The Senate should take that effort into account. It should, if its members feel they must, put a reasonable deadline in place to take the matter up again and decide if the OSAA group’s changes are working. If not, that, not now, is the time for a new law.