A school board in Oregon voted last Tuesday to ban any signs, clothing, or items that are understood as “political.” Examples of banned items include Pride flags and signage reading “Black Lives Matter.”
The ban passed on a 4-3 vote.
Newberg Public Schools will have a three-board member committee define what “political” means, according to Oregon Public Broadcasting.
“It still goes back to the fact that we have a lot of kids that are impacted by this positively or negatively,” Board chair Dave Brown said. “As a school board, it’s our job to make decisions that are going to be there for every single kid at Newberg High School, not just the kids that are represented in just one group — it has to be all kids.”
Board member Ines Peña, who wore a BLM T-shirt and a rainbow headband for the virtual meeting, called for more time for student input before voting on the motion. Peña is the only board member who is a person of color.
“The quality of some of the stories that we heard should count more than just the number of emails that we received,” Peña said. “And I feel like that’s not being heard, the students are not being heard.”
The ban is in opposition to several state initiatives including the Oregon Department of Education’s Black Lives Matter resolution and other efforts to support LGBTQ+ students, reported OPB.
Other topics that were pushed to the next board meeting included changing the district’s anti-racism policy and to rescind its “Every Student Belongs” policy, which would put it in violation of the standards set by the state.
District staff had asked the board to vote no on the ban.
“When these students enter our schools and see the symbols that we mean to communicate love and support and affirmation, they don’t see propaganda or indoctrination or any ideology,” said school counselor Joshua Reid. “They see a glimmer of hope that there can still be safe places and safe people in their schools.”
“They are messages of love and support,” Stacey Dalton, a teacher for the district, said. “White and or heteronormative students, the majority, see their own validation consistently in the curriculum Newberg School districts have adopted and therefore do not need extra messages of support.”
A parent in the district, Richard Arnold, whose daughter is transgender, asked where this began.
“Was there a multitude of students that were talking about being threatened by identifications inside the classroom? Was there a teacher that was pushing their agenda on so many students, that parents were getting complained to?” Arnold asked. “I mean, where did this all start?”
More comments focused on rejecting the ban than supported the ban, reported OPB.
The district’s superintendent Joe Morelock said that he will put the motion to the district’s lawyers to review before it takes effect.
“I won’t be able to enforce it as it is until we’ve gone through a bunch of legal review,” he said.