Oregon school board votes to prohibit employees from displaying political symbols

Oregon school board votes to prohibit employees from displaying political symbols
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Educators and school employees in an Oregon school district will no longer be able to display any political symbols following a vote Tuesday by the local school board, which initially moved last month to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBT Pride flags.

The Newberg School Board voted 4-3 Tuesday evening to accept a proposed policy of banning all district employees from hanging or displaying any posters, flags, banners or other objects “that depicts support or opposition relating to a political, quasipolitical, or controversial topic.” 

“Any person concerned with a particular Display should first notify the District employee believed to be responsible for the Display,” the policy states. “Alternatively, the concerned person may file a complaint with a supervisor, school principal or the principal’s designee pursuant to District Policy.” 

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The policy states that the ban does not apply to information presented as part of approved curriculum and classroom instruction. The U.S. flag and the Oregon state flag are also not included under the new policy. 

Last month, the school board voted to remove “all Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Pride displays from District facilities,” though vocal backlash led the board to table the motion and replace it with a new, all-encompassing policy that would apply to any symbols that could be considered political in nature. 

Brian Shannon, a school board director who first proposed the measure in early August, said in Tuesday’s virtual meeting that the policy is “very straight forward and, to my mind, it shouldn't be controversial.”

“We don't pay our teachers to push their political views on our students. That's not their place," Shannon continued. “Their place is to teach the approved curriculum, and that's all this policy does is ensure that's happening in our schools."

Fellow board directors Dave Brown, Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart backed Shannon in voting to approve the policy, while the remaining members of the school board vocalized opposition. 

Brandy Penner, one of the directors who voted against the measure Tuesday, said, "I think the point of this is to show that you are trying to sow division with extremist views and you have no interest in listening to [the] community.” 

The Newberg Education Association, a union that represents roughly 280 educators and district staff, said in a statement shared on Facebook that it was “extremely disappointed” by the school board’s vote Tuesday. 

“It’s clear their personal politics are stronger than any real desire to come together as a school community,” the group added, noting that it will “continue on our legal path to keep these board members in check,” and had already endorsed a campaign to recall Shannon. 

“Our educators are united in their goal to create classrooms where students can walk in and feel like they belong,” the association wrote.