Google Maps Mabel Rush Elementary School
An Oregon school district is speaking out after one of its staffers reported for work in blackface, allegedly in protest of the state-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Newberg Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Joe Morelock, addressed the incident in a statement on their website, calling the staffer's actions "dehumanizing and deeply disturbing."
"Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface," the statement read, in part. "The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism... 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."
According to local newspaper The Newberg Graphic, the staffer showed up to Mabel Rush Elementary School dressed as Rosa Parks with her face darkened.
A fellow staff member, who anonymously reported the incident to the newspaper, claimed the employee made the statement as a way to protest the COVID-19 vaccination mandate, which was put in place for all Oregon public school employees on Aug. 19.
Per the mandate, all teachers, educators, support staff, and volunteers in K-12 schools must be fully vaccinated by October 18.
Following the incident, Newberg Public Schools confirmed that the staffer "was removed from the location, and HR has placed the employee on administrative leave."
"I am horrified, angry and ashamed that this happened, as is nearly every other staff member," Morelock said in his statement. "The students of color in Newberg deserve so much more. This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff believe, and is unfathomably offensive."
"We must do better," he continued. "This behavior represents violence and evokes trauma; it is beyond unacceptable."
When reached by the Washington Post, the communications coordinator for the school declined to comment on whether the employee's actions were related to the mandate. "We are not commenting on the intention of the employee, as it does not matter: The action itself is unacceptable," Gregg Koskela wrote in an email to the newspaper.
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The school district was also involved in another controversy that week, which involved "racist and bullying behavior," according to a statement from the school.
Per The Newberg Graphic, students at Newberg High School allegedly formed a Snapchat group called "Slave Trade," where they reportedly joked about owning their Black classmates.
Morelock confirmed in a statement that the students involved were facing disciplinary action but could not disclose specific details, citing law and privacy concerns.
"I want to make it clear that racist and bullying behavior has no place in our schools or community. We are grateful to students and others who reported the incident," Morelock wrote. "I offer the invitation for each of us to take great care and bring increased respect for each other's humanity into every interaction we have in the days and weeks to come."