A staff member arrived to work at a Newberg elementary school in blackface on Friday, calling herself Rosa Parks and saying she was protesting the vaccination mandate for school employees, reports The Newberg Graphic.
In a statement released Monday, the Newberg School District said it had placed the staffer on leave.
“The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism,” the statement said. “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.”
The district did not return a call from WW seeking to confirm the school and the name of the employee. The Graphic reported that the employee arrived Sept. 17 at Mabel Rush Elementary School wearing blackface to compare herself to Parks, the civil rights hero, in a demonstration against a state requirement that K-12 school employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
For much of the year, right-wing vaccine skeptics have compared vaccination requirements to the Holocaust, among other racist analogies.
But the Friday incident occurred in one of the most racially charged environments in Oregon: the Newberg School District.
In August, the Newberg-Dundee school board voted to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags in public schools, saying they were a form of political indoctrination. Despite enormous public backlash, the board has stuck by its ruling.
Earlier this month, at least one Newberg High student was found to be involved in a Snapchat group called “Slave Trade.” This group included students from around the country who posted pictures of Black classmates along with jokes about auctioning them off. The Graphic reported that one Newberg student, who is white, posted in the group about two of his peers, adding racist comments to photos that he sent.
“Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action,” the district wrote today. “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.”