Corvallis School Board Recognizes Women’s History, Developmental Disability Awareness Month

Corvallis School Board Recognizes Women’s History, Developmental Disability Awareness Month 

During a special Feb. 24 meeting, the Corvallis School Board passed resolutions to recognize March as both Women’s History Month and Developmental Disability Awareness Month. Co-Vice Chair Luhui Whitebear sponsored both resolutions.  

The proposals put before the board note that “education is a necessary component for creating a more equitable and anti-racist community.” 

“Should we pass it,” Whitebear said during the meeting, “these resolutions and months are not just for show; they’re important to help recognize the experiences of people represented in them and also to help encourage the education that’s called out for within these resolutions to happen.” 

Women’s History Month 

In 1980, the National Women’s History Project led a group of historians and women’s organizations in successfully lobbying for national recognition of Women’s History Week. In the Presidential Proclamation that designated March 2-8 as Women’s History Week, Jimmy Carter wrote: “men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often the women were unsung and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.”  

Women’s History week was celebrated in March until 1987, when Congress designated the month as Women’s History Month. 

Whitebear said, “I know as a woman of color – as an indigenous woman that has been underrepresented heavily in many aspects of society and throughout my life – that these kinds of resolutions don’t just impact me, they impact all women. And not just cisgender women, as well.” 

The resolution affirms that trans women are women, noting that “trans women’s identities have historically been criminalized and continue to be targeted by violence.” 

“I want to remind the board that while it’s wonderful that we’re adopting these resolutions this year; I think it’s very important that these are stated in terms of recognizing these events in perpetuity,” said Board member Vince Adams. “And so it’s incumbent on us to come back to these next year and decide how we’re going to celebrate this event next year.” 

Co-Vice Chair Shauna Tominey noted that three Corvallis schools were recently renamed after historic women, including Letitia Carson, who was the first Black woman recognized as living in Oregon according to the U.S. Census because she was the only Black woman to successfully make a land claim under the Homestead Act of 1862.  

Adams moved to adopt the resolution to recognize Women’s History Month and Shauna seconded. The motion passed unanimously. 

Developmental Disability Awareness Month 

In 1907, state legislators authorized the creation of the Oregon State Institution for the Feeble-Minded. In 1923, state legislation also created the Oregon Board of Eugenics in order to forcibly sterilize disabled people, mentally ill people, people with epilepsy, and people with criminal records. Forced sterilization was legal in Oregon for sixty years; 2,648 people were sterilized in total. 

In 2002, then-governor John Kitzhaber publicly acknowledged Oregon’s history of eugenics and apologized to the thousands affected. Oregon was one of 33 states to legislate in favor of eugenics in the 25 years after 1900, but at the time of his 2002 statement, Kitzhaber was the second governor to apologize publicly. Developmental Disability Awareness month was first recognized nationally in 1987.  

“There’s a couple different disability awareness months,” said Whitebear. “This one in particular is about developmental disabilities and we also included some language about folk with other disabilities to be celebrated and recognized during this month. Just understanding the impact of education and some of the exclusions that have existed because of people’s developmental disabilities, especially in school settings.” 

Whitebear specifically noted the existence of National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October. 

Board member Sami Al-Abdrabbuh thanked the writers and sponsors of the resolution. “It’s really important to recognize this resolution and its significance and where we are right now and the work that we need to do.” 

He noted Oregon’s legacy of forced sterilization, saying to the Board, “We need to be conscious about the injustices that happened in our community. And it’s a reminder that injustices happened in our lifetime and may continue to be around us, so we need to be aware and we need to celebrate the value and potential of every human being.” 

Adams said that “despite all the work and the attention that this board and this district gives in trying to meet the needs of these kids, we are still struggling in a system that is designed to not meet their needs.” 

He moved to adopt the resolution to recognize Developmental Disability Awareness Month; Board member Terese Jones seconded. The resolution passed unanimously. 

By Grace Miller 

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