A Prayer For Students, Teachers, Staff and Parents At The Start Of The School Year
Portland's Roosevelt HS. 90 students here were homeless last school year.
September 4, 2013
We ask your blessings at the start of a new school year. Watch over our children. Be a source of inspiration to teachers and administrators. Show favor on support staff often over burdened.
Our schools should be cathedrals. We lament so often public schools do not receive the resources they need. Help us learn to become better advocates for our children. Help us to learn to become better stewards of resources.
We pray for safe schools, O God. No gun violence. No bulling. No violence of any kind.
Let this be a year of learning. Open young hearts to new wonders. Encourage parents to let children dream big dreams. Let this generation of students make and achieve great goals.
We pray that students play and find joy in each day. Let them make life-long friends. Give parents extra energy to support their children. Help the community find ways to support families.
We give you thanks, O God, for the richness of diversity. Our public schools are a gift that brings us all together. Help us make that goal an even brighter reality this year. Let this be a year of great learning.
The National Council of Churches stated in a Pastoral Letter on education in 2010 that:
As we strive to move our imperfect world closer to the realm of God, we recognize that we are all responsible for making sure that public schools, as primary civic institutions, embody our love for one another. We are called to create institutions that serve families and children with hospitality. We are called to work as citizens for the resources that will support a climate of trust and community within each public school.
Right now too many of our schools are in disrepair. My daughters attend a public school built nearly 100 years ago that - like many neighborhood schools - is in need of seismic upgrades.
Measure 26-144 moves us closer to being a community that shows true hospitality for our children and provides new opportunities for learning that will make our entire community stronger.
I feel so strongly about this issue that just today I made a donation to the campaign to help pay for a get-out-the-vote effort in the final days of this fall campaign. You can donate here to show your support.
Dear Commissioner Leonard and members of the Portland City Council:
I want to express my personal support for the proposed fluoridation plan. As a minister and father of eight year old twin daughters, health and dental care is a top concern. Making sure that low-income children have every advantage should be a top priority of our city and right now that just isn't the case. As you know, we have terrible rates of dental problems that result in ER visits and long-term issues for children. We see these problems at rates other cities don't. Fluoridation is a simple step that will help fix a big problem.
On my Facebook page, some people have raised questions about how people who might have medical issues with fluoride - such as allergies or thyroid problems that are impacted apparently by fluoride - might be impacted. I know that the fluoride levels will be at the HHS recommended levels but I would ask that you address these other issues in your discussions so that people feel Portland's plan is safe moving forward.
Again, thank you for your leadership on this issue. Commissioner Leonard deserves special thanks. Fluoridation will be an important part of his legacy and the result will be lower rates of dental problems for Portland's children. That's a legacy to be proud of.
Christians across the United States have been quick to praise President Obama for his decision not to deport certain young immigrants who came to the United States as children. "As the President has said many times, it makes no sense to remove productive young people to countries where they may not have lived or even speak the language. They have become productive members in our communities. They have grown up swearing allegiance to our flag. Yet they live in the shadows of America, without the possibility to realize their dreams," writes Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. Mainline Christians, evangelicals and Roman Catholics - often divided - have been outspoken in their support for immigration reform and President Obama's actions. Why is this the case? We are called to "welcome the stranger" in our midst with hospitality. Laws must be followed and real reform is still needed but the clear Christian response on this issue has always been not to turn away young people trying to better their lives.
“We believe the DHS’s policy that rewards hard working young people sets the right tone. Evangelicals everywhere affirm that young immigrants can and should be allowed to contribute to our nation’s well-being.”
"The Obama administration’s announcement today that some undocumented youth living in the U.S. will receive temporary relief from deportation and will be able to receive work authorization is an extraordinary way forward for much needed immigration reform. Among the young people who will be blessed by this action are United Methodists with whom we celebrate and give God thanks. This day comes as a result of the diligent efforts of many, including the hard work of Immigration Rapid Response Teams in our annual conferences, the work of several of our general agencies, United Methodist Women, and the clear and steady voice of our Council of Bishops."
- United Methodist Bishop Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops welcomed the action of President Barack Obama today to defer action to all young people eligible under the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, saying that it would permit young people who were brought into the United States undocumented to come out of the shadows and more fully participate in society.
“This important action will provide legal protection, and work authorization, to a vulnerable group of immigrants who are deserving of remaining in our country and contributing their talents to our communities,” said Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration. “These youth are bright, energetic, and eager to pursue their education and reach their full potential.”
As many as 800,000 young people would be eligible to receive a deferred action on deportation for two years, and a work permit.
Archbishop Gomez said the President’s action is no substitute for passage of the DREAM Act and encouraged Congress to enact comprehensive and humane immigration reform.
- U.S. Conference of Roman Catholic Bishops
Jesus said, "Bring the children to me." Our Christian teachings compel us to welcome the stranger in our midst, many of whom are young people innocent of any wrong doing. As officers of the United Church of Christ, we applaud President Obama's decision to grant categorical relief to almost 1 million young people who were brought to the United States when they were children.
Until now these young people — who grew up in the United States, attended American schools and stayed out of trouble — were not able to dream of possibilities for personal or professional advancement in this country. Until now, these young people have been unable to work. They are ineligible for government financial aid to go to college, even in circumstances when they are outstanding students who are committed to being productive contributors to their communities and our society as a whole. Worst of all, they have been subject to deportation proceedings, sending them back to countries in which they have little connection or familiarity.
The Executive Order announced on June 15, 2012, gives undocumented young immigrants, under the age of 30, the ability to apply for deferred action of deportation. They must meet key criteria outlined in the statement delivered by Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security. While this temporary measure contains limiting conditions and gives only two years of reprieve, it is a positive step that we pray will lead to just and compassionate immigration reform legislation that is long overdue. As leaders of the United Church of Christ we call for the President and Congress to enact comprehensive social policies that establish a safe and humane immigration system that is consistent with our core values: Continuing Testament, Extravagant Welcome, and Changing Lives.
My daughters are getting new Christmas dresses from their grandmother this year and since she lives far off in rural Washington where there aren't many stores I volunteered to get the dresses. What I found was truly upsetting.
Frances and Katherine are seven. They like Barbie (which just kills me but what can you do), Pillow Pets and Nancy Drew mysteries. They've been privileged, I recognize this, to grow up without needing anything. Our kids are pretty innocent though they understand from both my work and Liz's that plenty of people are in need.
Having said all that, they like to dress like princesses. When grown-ups kiss they yell "yuck." Our kids are age appropriate.
But what the clothing the stores are trying to sell are anything but age appropriate. I went to store after store at a local mall and found dresses that looked like outfits you'd find on 21 year olds at a night club instead of second-graders at a family party. So here's my message to stores and clothing manufactures: stop trying to sexualize our children. Let kids be kids.
And parents everywhere could do their children a real favor by resisting all the marketing these companies put into selling this kind of trash. Children deserve better. My mother taught me so, thank God.
Unfortunately, I could not attend the conference in person but I sent the following message to the 800 delegates attending their annual convention:
Please accept my thanks for this wonderful award. As President Obama has rightly noted, the best anti-poverty strategy is a good education. Like you, I see the growing number of homeless children in our nation as a moral crisis. This crisis has economic, political and even spiritual implications. I believe, like Dr. King, that we are called to create the Beloved Community and to do so we must end homelessness - not just manage it. The National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth is one of the great civil rights organizations of our time. Without your advocacy and leadership children across our country who are living in homelessness would have no hope. So for me it is a tremendous honor to receive an award from this organization. It's like winning the Nobel Peace Prize. And if I could, I would present each one of you an award in return for the work you do each day to promote to common good of our nation.
So what does this organization do?
NAEHCY, a national grassroots membership association, connects educators, parents, advocates, researchers, and service providers to ensure school enrollment and attendance and overall success for children and youth whose lives have been disrupted by the lack of safe, permanent, and adequate housing. NAEHCY achieves these goals through advocacy, partnerships, and education.
Each year, approximately 1.5 million children and youth experience homelessness in our nation's towns, cities and counties. These students lack the stability and peace of mind we all hope to be able to give our children. On a regular basis, children and youth report that school is a home to them – a place where they see the same faces, sit in the same seat, and can put their hearts and minds into pursuits that ease their daily troubles. In academic settings, students gain the skills and support needed to avoid poverty and homelessness as adults. Our members work in schools, education, and advocacy agencies across the country, as well as in shelters and community organizations. We are on the front lines identifying, enrolling, and coordinating services for homeless children and youth.
It has been my deep honor to work with the staff and board of NAEHCY over many years to help lift up the needs of students experiencing homelessness in our nation. There might be no more important work as we try and save a generation of Americans who are seeking with their families to escape the cycle of poverty and homelessness that so many are trapped in.
Right now as Congress debates funding for programs that help lift people out of poverty it is critical that all Americans demand that educational opportunities not be denied. Public education is one of America's greatest achievements and students who are homeless need schools and the hope they provide more than most.
The Oregonian tonight has posted a story about two Canby High School seniors, Hunter Mead and Peter Schultz, who are pushing a proposal to allow their school based health care clinic to provide "birth control in the form of pills, patches, rings or the Depo-Provera shot."
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I want to applaud this proposal and thank the students who have put it forward. All of us - parents, teachers, coaches, clergy and others that work with youth - need to teach responsibility and encourage youth to make wise decisions. The wisest decision is not to become sexually active at a young age. But we all know young people don't always make the best decisions. They make mistakes. We should give them the tools to recover from those mistakes - including sex education and contraceptives - that prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy.
Some churches argue that sex education and contraceptives have no place in public schools. That's unwise thinking and, frankly, bad theology. Want to reduce the number of abortions? As the United Church of Christ has noted: "We know that reducing the need for abortion is best accomplished by making birth control and family planning available, accessible and affordable."
Want to reduce teen pregnancies (and all the studies show abstinence only programs DO NOT work)? Want to lift up children and help young people succeed? Give them the tools to do so. Providing contraceptives is a moral obligation.
Frankly, it is frustrating there is still a debate over birth control in the schools. In 1986, I ran for student body president of Sunset High School on a platform of opening up a Planned Parenthood clinic in our school to provide birth control. Protecting kids seems as controversial today as it was then.
Let's hope another 25 years doesn't pass before common sense, wisdom and compassion overcome fear and, yes, ignorance.
The four films, each six or seven minutes long, feature Dr. Diane Ravitch, education historian at New York University and author of the best selling book, The Death and Life of the Great American School District; and Dr. John Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education.
Jackson and Ravitch discuss foundational values that have historically defined society’s commitment to public education but which the Council believes have become controversial:
● Educational Opportunity for All ● Public Schools and the Common Good ● Public Schools, Part of the Community or Marketplace? ● Supporting Our Teachers
The films, created by the NCC’s Committee on Public Education and Literacy were designed to stimulate conversation about issues raised by the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches in a May 18, 2010 Pastoral Letter that was sent to the President, Congress, and the Secretary of Education.
In the letter, the Governing Board declared, “At a moment when childhood poverty is shamefully widespread, when many families are under constant stress, and when schools are often limited by lack of funds or resources, we know that public schools cannot be improved by concentrating on public schools alone… In this context we must address with prayerful determination the issues of race and class, which threaten both public education and democracy in America.”
The Governing Board also questioned test-based accountability as the philosophy that dominates today’s media conversation around public education: “We worry that our society has come to view what is good as what can be measured and compared… As people of faith we do not view our children as products to be tested and managed but instead as unique human beings, created in the image of God, to be nurtured and educated.”
In the short clip that introduces each video, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, NCC general secretary, endorses public school justice reform as a priority for the churches.
“Each child has special, sacred gifts that need to be nurtured, and all children are special and precious in God’s eyes,” Kinnamon declares, “which means that a system in which some children have access to excellent instruction while others don’t is simply unacceptable.”
Jan Resseger of the United Church of Christ Justice & Witness Ministries, chair of the Council’s Committee on Public Education and Literacy, said she “looks to the four short films as a comfortable context for church study groups to confront what have become heated issues and to read and reconsider last year’s NCC Pastoral Letter in the context of the values the videos explore.”
We provide a range of services that “wrap-around” the family to reduce parental stress and social isolation. We’re teaching parenting skills, strengthening bonds between parents and their babies, providing targeted services, reducing child behavioral problems and improving social-emotional development in very young children.
We believe that by focusing on the social and emotional well-being of the youngest, most vulnerable children, we can strengthen families. We do this at a time when we can have the greatest impact on their lives, when their children are infants through age 4. Our families get the help they need, when they need it, to overcome their difficulties and emerge stronger — as a family. A failed family becomes a burden on the community. A successful one contributes to it. Together, we are making families stronger.
It was impressive to see Portland Children's Relief Nursery firsthand and to hear how this agency is working with families that have both suffered abuse or are at risk of abuse.
We keep hearing the GOP bill itself as the "pro-life" party - the defender of the unborn. Why is it that their concern for children seems to end at birth? Here in Oregon, as Our Oregon notes, we have another example as House Republicans try to keep a bill from moving forward that would ban a toxic chemical found in baby bottles and sippy cups:
Senate Bill 695, which would ban the toxic chemical BPA in baby bottles and sippy cups, has been blocked in the House by Republicans who refuse to hold a committee work session on it.
Why is this bill so important? Take it away, OLCV: "Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a dangerous, toxic chemical that is routinely found in plastic children’s food products like baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula cans. Toxic BPA has been linked to several increasing children's developmental problems."
Instead of voting to protect children by banning this harmful chemical in children’s products, Republican leaders have put the brakes on the bill. Why would that be? Kari Chisholm at Blue Oregon has an interesting take that involves Representative Bruce Hanna’s financial ties to Coca-Cola, a major backer of BPA.
The good news is that all is not lost.
Representative Ben Cannon has filed a “discharge petition” to allow the House to take an up-or-down vote on banning BPA.
A discharge petition can be used when politicians try to kill a popular, important bill – in this case, the BPA ban – without even allowing it to come up for a vote. This petition will need to be signed by 31 Representatives, a majority of the Oregon House, to send the BPA-Free Baby Bill to the floor for a vote. But we need them to sign within the next five days.
Click hereto tell your Representative to sign the discharge petition before 5 p.m. on next Wednesday, June 1st to allow the BPA-Free Baby Bill to come up for a vote.
Act quickly to protect the health of kids in Oregon. I know that for most people - Republican, Democrat or Independent - we want Legislators to put politics aside and do what is best for our children. This is a moral issue that should transcend party politics and that should bring people who disagree on difficult issues like abortion together for the common good.
Views expressed here represent the perspectives of Rev. Currie, as well as reader participants, and may not represent the views of Pacific University, the United Church of Christ’s national offices in Cleveland or any local UCC congregation. External links made from this site should not construe an endorsement. Rev. Currie has no more editorial control over such content than does a public library, bookstore, or newsstand. Such external links are made for informational purposes only.