Racial controversies continue to mount at the Newberg Public School system located in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon.
Last week, students in the district’s high school conducted a mock “slave auction” on social media in which they ridiculed fellow classmates and discussed how much they would or wouldn’t pay to own them.
And now, in an even more troubling incident, an employee of a local elementary school came to work in blackface in protest of the state’s vaccination policy.
David K. Li of NBC News reported that an “employee of Mabel Rush Elementary School wore the blackface to evoke the memory of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and protest a vaccination mandate for all public school employees in Oregon.”
Upon learning what had happened, the school district said the employee was immediately suspended, “removed from the location,” and placed on administrative leave.
In a statement released after the incident, the school said, “the administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism. It is important to remember how blackface has been used to misrepresent Black communities and do harm. We acknowledge the violence this represents and the trauma it evokes regardless of intention.”
“Blackface has no place in our schools, and we are committed to the work of created spaces where every student belongs as we move forward together in our mission of educating students,” the school said in a statement.
According to Li, the school’s Superintendent, Joe Morelock, was unavailable for further comment. Gregg Koskela, communications coordinator for Newberg Public Schools, would not confirm additional details of the incident with the press.
“The district has no comment on any motivation of the employee,” Koskela said. “The incident itself is unacceptable on our campuses, and the action matters far more than any intention.”
As if all this weren’t enough controversy for the school district, local school board officials are also considering an upcoming ban of all political symbols, LGBTQ pride flags, and visible signs of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Based on state law, all Oregon public school employees in the state must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.