NEWBERG, Ore. (AP) – Officials say an employee at a school outside of Portland, Oregon went to work in blackface last week and has been placed on leave.
The Newberg School District said in a statement, “It is important to remember how Blackface has been used to misrepresent Black communities and do harm.”
The incident happened Friday, and officials say the employee was removed. The special ed teacher’s aide dressed as Rosa Parks, with her face darkened, and showed up to work at Mabel Elementary. The Newberg Graphic reports she was protesting Governor Kate Brown’s vaccine mandate for teachers.
In August the school board voted to ban pride flags, flags reading Black Lives Matter and any broadly “political” signs.
Ban supporters said the signs don’t make people feel safe.
Many groups including the Oregon Department of Education have asked the board to reverse course.
The board has called a special meeting Wednesday.
Here is the statement from the district:
“Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface. The employee was removed from the location, and HR has placed the employee on administrative leave. 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.
Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action. We continue to work towards a safe and welcoming environment in our schools that is free from bullying, and reduces mental, emotional, and physical harm. 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 Blackface incident follows reports that some Newberg students were involved in a social media group called “Slave Trade,” joking about what they would pay for their Black classmates in a slave auction.
Superintendent Dr. Joe Forelock addressed both incidents this week saying, “Students of color of Newberg deserve so much more. This goes against everything I and the vast majority of N.S.D. staff have believed.”
Some link the incidents to the Newberg School Board’s recent efforts to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags and signs.