SALEM — After a heated hearing March 17, a bill that would have created a registration process for private schools along with greater oversight and regulation of those registered, will not be moving out of the Senate Education Committee.

As he was describing Senate Bill 223 to the panel, Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, told those virtually gathered that he had hoped the bill would address the problem of student safety.

“It is not coming from a desire to limit private schools, change what they teach or to affect their curriculum in any way,” said Dembrow. “I fully respect the rights of parents to send their children to the private school of their choice.”

The bill would not have made registration mandatory, but not registering would have come with a steep cost: disallowing those schools not registered and its students from participating in Oregon School Activities Association programs. Currently private schools are not required to register with the state, though they have been in the past.

Dembrow told those watching the hearing, however, that his proposed legislation may not be the answer to the problem he wanted to solve. His primary concern was addressing student safety. He promised to work with interested parties to try to find a better solution. Many people, from various organizations and schools, testified against the bill. No one spoke in favor.

“We can achieve this compliance without the oversight word that you used,” testified Mark Siegel, executive director of the Oregon Federation of Independent Schools.

“We are dead serious about what you want to do and protect the children. We think the bill goes too far,” testified Roger Martin, lobbyist for the Oregon Catholic Conference. “But we would be happy to work with you during the session or during the interim.”

Martin also talked about the strong program set up in the Archdiocese of Portland to protect children from abuse.

Dembrow has told the Oregon Federation of Independent Schools that legislation to achieve student safety in private schools will now be worked on during the legislature’s interim sessions and that he will take input from the organization and others.

sarahw@catholicsentinel.org