School worker suspended after wearing blackface in anti-vax protest

Employee claimed they were dressed as civil rights protest icon Rosa Parks

Graeme Massie
Los Angeles
Tuesday 21 September 2021 16:24 BST
Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg
Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg (KGW8)

A staff member at an Oregon elementary school showed up in blackface to protest against its vaccination mandate.

The employee at Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg claimed they were dressed as civil rights icon Rosa Parks, who refused to obey racist laws that forced Black people to sit in the back of public buses.

The Newberg Public Schools district has a vaccine mandate that covers both teachers and staff members, with religious and medical exemptions.

The school district condemned the action and aid that the staff member had been placed on administrative leave.

“The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism,” the school district said in a statement.

“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.

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.”

Superintendent Dr Joe Morelock said: “We’ve seen some dehumanising and deeply disturbing expressions of racism in recent days involving our district.”

“As always, our deepest concern is for the wellbeing 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 behaviour,” he said.

“I am horrified, angry and ashamed that this happened, as is nearly every other staff member. The students of colour in Newberg deserve so much more.

“This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff believe, and is unfathomably offensive.”

He added: “If we had the power to entirely eliminate deep-seated racism, we would in a heartbeat. But the painful truth is that clearly, racist behaviour exists in our town, in our state, and our world—not just in the major and overt ways we’ve seen recently, but in subtle ways that affect people of colour every single day.

“We must interrupt and respond; we must do better.”

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