Northshore groups advocate for inclusion

In the last few months, several organizations have formed in the Bothell-Kenmore region to promote the acceptance, safety and inclusion of marginalized people, from immigrants and people of color to the local LGBTQ population.

At a December Bothell City Council meeting, several students and staff members at the University of Washington Bothell came forward to urge the councilmembers to make Bothell a “sanctuary city” for immigrants. A sanctuary city follows certain procedures that shelter illegal immigrants, and participating cities in the United States include Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

Several of the students who came forward indicated fear about reporting harassment they faced on campus, and councilmembers encouraged them to contact the authorities and call 911 should that happen again. “The people within this community have your backs,” Councilmember James McNeal said at the meeting.

Community organizing

The Northshore Unity Coalition and the Bothell Alliance for Justice started in the last few months to help bring the community together and protect marginalized populations.

Following a November community meeting held at the Islamic Center of Bothell that drew dozens of people, Diane Rothaar was inspired to create the Northshore Unity Coalition, which is basing its framework on the guiding principles of the national “Not In Our Town” campaign (more info at niot.org).

“We need everybody who’s against hate to stand up and say so,” she said.

The coalition, which serves Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville and surrounding areas, started as a Facebook group (facebook.com/groups/138232649989583) and held its first meeting in December at Northlake Lutheran Church in Kenmore, with 60 people in attendance. There are more than 200 people in the Facebook group.

“There are plenty of members who want to be good neighbors,” Rothaar said, adding the coalition is non-political.

Rothaar said the group plans to host a variety of events, including interfaith devotions and a unity festival. For more information about the coalition, contact Rothaar at dianeheveranrothaar@yahoo.com or visit the Facebook group.

The Bothell Alliance for Justice was formed in November to advocate “for an equitable and inclusive community committed to raising awareness and taking action on local policies, issues and institutions through an anti-racist, anti-oppression framework that addresses institutional and systemic racism,” according to its mission statement.

“I’m a woman of color, and I think after all of the changes that have happened over the course of the last year, my friends and family members feel a little less safe,” Nichole Sams said of her reasoning for getting involved with the alliance. “People … are feeling scared and left out.”

The group, which has 200 members, is looking to start a series of roundtable discussions with community stakeholders addressing various aspects of its mission. More information about the Bothell Alliance for Justice can be found through their Facebook group page, facebook.com/groups/1167417126640750, or by emailing bothellallianceforjustice@gmail.com.

The alliance is also working with the Bothell City Council to adopt an anti-hate resolution that includes language about the city being welcoming to people of all races, faiths, sexual orientations, genders and nationalities. The petition has been posted online at change.org/p/bothell-wa-anti-hate-resolution.

“The resolution must be a strong statement denouncing all hate crimes to illustrate Bothell’s commitment that all marginalized communities are safe, and that the City of Bothell is also committed to building trust amongst its community and police,” the alliance stated in a letter to the council.

The council discussed the ideas of becoming a sanctuary city or city of inclusion at its Jan. 10 meeting in a study session, and they planned to continue the discussion on Jan. 17 (after the Reporter’s deadline).

“This has been an issue since before President-elect (Donald) Trump was President-elect Trump,” Bothell Mayor Andy Rheaume said on Jan. 10.

Supporting diversity in the schools

The Northshore School District’s Equity and Diversity Committee held its first meeting in November. Chris Bigelow, NSD director of student services and equity and diversity, heads the group.

“I have actually inquired in years past about the possibility of a diversity committee, but sometimes timing is everything,” he said. “In watching our changing demographics and working with many diverse families in our community, it is something that was truly needed.”

NSD Superintendent Michelle Reid set forth the following charges for the committee:

• Review any prior diversity and equity reports and identify program recommendations and implementation commitments;

• Identify best practice diversity, access and equity strategies for implementation;

• Recommend ways to engage all communities, particularly those traditionally underserved and underrepresented, and facilitate new communication processes to maintain and sustain meaningful engagement with them;

• Determine best method to communicate diversity and equity expectations internally;

• Research and craft a district equity and diversity policy;

• Research and identify best practice strategies to close the opportunity and achievement gaps;

• Review district data and provide ways to address areas of disproportionality;

• Act in an advisory capacity to help determine areas of the curriculum in which instructional materials need to be reviewed and improved;

• Review and make any necessary recommendations on discipline policies and procedures;

• Collect input on and communicate professional development needs;

• Review and make recommendations regarding hiring and retention practices, mentoring and staff support structures, and the implementation of programs and activities which support the committee’s vision and objectives, etc.

All of these items will help Reid and district staff develop Northshore’s strategic plan. The committee is expected to deliver a report to the superintendent by May 19, and Reid said the strategic plan will be finalized in June.

“We want to make sure we are including all voices in policymaking,” Reid said. “We’re stronger united than when we’re divided.”

More information about the NSD’s Equity and Diversity Committee can be found online at nsd.org/Page/31455.

“I am excited that the district supports and accepts its responsibility for moving forward on this journey and to committing time, energy and resources to develop a more inclusive, welcoming environment for all students, parents and staff,” Bigelow said.

The Northshore School Board also issued a proclamation in December stating the district is dedicated to fostering a respectul and inclusive environment for all students, staff, parents and community members.

The Bothell Police Department (BPD) issued a similar statement earlier this month, reaffirming its policy on immigration. The policy states, in part: “Being an undocumented resident in this country, barring any criminal activity, is a federal civil violation not enforced by the Bothell Police Department.”

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