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Candidates For Bend-La Pine Schools Board Zones 6 & 7 Discuss Hot Topics In Forum

BEND, OR -- Candidates for Bend-La Pine Schools Zone Seven discussed book banning, curriculum, funding needs and student behavior at a recent virtual forum hosted by the City Club and League of Women Voters.

Kina Chadwick was appointed in December and is running to remain for the two years left on the term, saying, "There’s a common thread in the various groups that I volunteer with. They all focus on making Bend better for everyone. I intentionally review programs and policies with a lens of equity."

Challenger Rod Hanson says the board needs his experience and decades in Bend, "I taught for 47 years in the public schools; 44 in Central Oregon. I was at Redmond High for 32 years, Central Oregon Community College for 12 years." 

Challenger Elizabeth Justema is also an educator, "I’ve been a high school teacher for the past 10 years. I raised both my kids here in the Bend-La Pine system. I have one in college and one that’s a senior."

A fourth candidate - Nicole Fitch - chose not to participate. 

Board Chair Melissa Barnes Dholakia also took part in the forum; she's running for re-election to Zone six. She got frustrated when asked about banning books, "This question is actually a real problem for me because we have a very vocal, very small minority using their voices to push a nationally organized strategy. I will answer the question: I don’t believe in banning books. I think that every child in Bend-La Pine School district deserves to check out a book that reflects their life. And for any adult to say that they shouldn’t have that opportunity; shame on them." The League of Women Voters says her challenger - Chet Wamboldt - declined to participate in the virtual forum. 

A question about gender affirming care in schools and potential restrictions for trans athletes also frustratedBarnes Dholakia. After repeating her problem with amplifying a 'nationally organized strategy,' she said, "Our children deserve to experience inclusion and belonging in our schools."

Chadwick responded, "As someone who is queer, as someone who is non-binary, as someone who is a person of color, these are the types of challenges that these types of students experience every day. I truly believe we should be talking about things that are more important to academic achievement."

Justema answered, "I believe public schools’ mission is to welcome every single student as they present themselves in our doors."

Hanson agreed with the others on treating trans students fairly in class, but said school sports need to maintain competitive balance, " I would say that you should participate in the sport you were born in. I would be concerned we’d be violating Title IX."

All four candidates said the school board should not be involved in approving specific curriculum if it meets state guidelines. 


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