Oregon teachers and other school staff must be vaccinated by Oct. 18. But an anti-vax special education staffer at an elementary school decided protesting in blackface was the way to protest the change. The NBC affiliate KGW reported the staffer showed up to work in blackface on Friday.
The staffer is now on leave from their position at Mable Rush Elementary. They were allegedly trying to protest the enforcement of the school vaccine mandate, the staffer dressed up as civil rights legend Rosa Parks. Somehow in 2021, people are still missing the memo that blackface is not needed to dress up as a Black person. (Read the full story at KGW).
The blackface incident is the third incident in the past two months, showing a lack of cultural competency in the district. A week earlier, it was reported students at the nearby high school took part in a virtual “slave auction.” KGW reported students posted in a group about how much they would pay to buy their Black classmates.
Newberg’s school board also tried to ban gear and flags related to Black Lives Matter and Pride from being displayed at schools within the district. Pamplin Media Group reported that a Black school district parent and former school board candidate saw a clear line between the staffer’s actions and wild comparisons made by a local elected official.
“This makes sense only because we have our county commissioner, Mary Starrett, who drew that line between vaccine mandates and Jim Crow,” Tai Harden-Moore said. “That was only a couple months ago. Our county leadership is saying basic public health measures are akin to Jim Crow. There is a line between our political leadership and something like this happening. Our leadership matters.”
School Superintendent Dr. Joe Morelock issued a statement saying each racist incident will be taken seriously and investigated accordingly. “We’ve seen some dehumanizing and deeply disturbing expressions of racism in recent days involving our district,” he said. “As always, our deepest concern is for the well-being of our students and our staff. Every day, we work toward building an environment where every student is welcomed and safe, and where there is absolutely no tolerance for racist or bullying behavior.”
Morelock continued to say students of color in Newberg deserve better. “I am horrified, angry and ashamed that this happened, as is nearly every other staff member,” he said. “This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff believe and is unfathomably offensive.”
Proposed back in August, the Oregon mandate does provide for a valid medical or religious exemption. Gov. Kate Brown has previously said that since younger kids cannot be vaccinated, having the adults around them offers greater protection.
Data from the Mayo Clinic shows a sharp decline in the number of full vaccinated children ages 12 to 17. The Mayo Clinic vaccine tracker shows 67.1 percent of those 18-64 are fully vaccinated compared to only 18 percent of children 12-17.
Opposition to school masks and vaccine mandates continues as the nation continues to deal with a pandemic with no clear end in sight.
“When harmful actions like this come to the surface, and the traumatic impacts of those actions are recognized, we all, children and adults, can work toward improving the environment and the supports we employ for each and every student, no matter their identity,” Morelock said. “I am absolutely committed to doing that work. Let’s do it together.”