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Oregon school board OKs ban on Black Lives Matter flags

August 12, 2021 GMT

NEWBERG, Ore. (AP) — The school board in Newberg, Oregon, has voted to ban on pride flags, flags reading Black Lives Matter and any broadly “political” signs, clothing, and other items.

The school board voted Tuesday, four to three, to enact the ban, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported. The board’s three-member policy committee is set to outline what constitutes “political.”

The action goes against recent state efforts to highlight support for students, including the Oregon Department of Education’s Black Lives Matter October 2020 resolution and recent efforts to help LGBTQ+ students.

Supporters of the flags said they made students feel seen and help students who are being bullied, while supporters of the ban said the signs were “divisive,” and that signs don’t make people feel safe.

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Discussion and votes on drafting “replacement language” on the district’s new anti-racism policy and rescinding the district’s “Every Student Belongs” policy, was moved to the district’s next board meeting. If the board votes to roll back “Every Student Belongs,” the district would be in violation of state standards.

According to board secretary Jenn Nelson, there were over 90 public comments, of which 31 were heard, and Board chair Dave Brown said the board received over 500 emails ahead of the meeting.

In the weeks since the board’s last meeting, some state lawmakers have asked members of the school board to rethink their actions.

On Thursday, the Oregon Legislature’s Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) caucus condemned the board’s action, saying the caucus is watching closely and will consider all Legislative avenues to protect students, promote student success and economic opportunity.

“We want to recognize Newberg School Board Directors (Ines) Peña, (Brandy) Penner, and (Rebecca) Piros for their leadership and commitment on behalf of all students and the communities they serve, with the call to delay the vote until all public comment could be heard. Rushing through these decisions to restrict the symbols educators can display in classrooms weeks before the school year begins is divisive and wrong.”

Joshua Reid, a Newberg schools counselor, said the district’s 16 counselors signed a letter asking the board to vote “no” on Tuesday’s agenda items.

Newberg Superintendent Joe Morelock said he won’t be able to enforce the ban as is until it’s reviewed by the district’s lawyers.

Newberg is about 20 miles (32 kilometers) southwest of Portland.