State Watch

Oregon school staffer protests vaccine mandate by wearing blackface to dress as Rosa Parks

A staff member at a Newberg, Ore., elementary school used blackface to dress up as civil rights icon Rosa Parks in protest of her school's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, CBS affiliate KOIN reported on Monday.

An unidentified staff member told KOIN that Mabel Rush Elementary School special education assistant Lauren Pefferle had darkened her face with iodine for the demonstration.

"Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface," the school district said in a statement. "The employee was removed from the location and [human resources] has placed the employee on administrative leave. The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism."

"Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action," the district added. "We continue to work towards a safe and welcoming environment in our schools that is free from bullying and reduces mental, emotional and physical harm as we move forward together in our mission of educating students."

The blackface incident comes amid controversy surrounding a Newberg High School student being connected to a mock "slave trade" Snapchat group chat, according to the CBS affiliate. 

The local school board, meanwhile, has faced pushback over its attempts to ban any Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride flags on school grounds as "political" symbols.

Tai Harden-Moore, a former candidate for the school board who has children in the district, told KOIN that local leaders must do better. 

"This makes sense only because we have our county commissioner, Mary Starrett, who drew that line between vaccine mandates and Jim Crow," 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."

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