Racism and racial tensions have recently been the focus of conversations in the school district in Newberg, a city approximately 25 miles from Portland.
The school board is meeting Wednesday night to hear public comment on several issues, including recent incidents and a ban on political or controversial displays.
“It is important to remember how blackface has been used to misrepresent Black communities and do harm,” the district said in a statement.
Joe Morelock, the district’s superintendent, said he was “horrified, angry and ashamed” that the incident happened in his district and it was “unfathomably offensive.”
“Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action,” Morelock said in the statement.
“In this context, we say again that Newberg Public Schools and its staff condemn racism in all its forms in the strongest terms possible. Our administration and staff are working hard to create schools where each and every student belongs, as we move forward together in our mission of safely educating students,” he added.
“Putting this educator on leave sends the wrong message. This educator should have been terminated immediately. There should be a zero-tolerance policy. There, in my opinion, is no investigation needed,” Harden-Moore told KATU.
District engulfed in debate over Pride and BLM signs
In the past month, the district has been grappling with other incidents.
Last week, a high school principal reported that a student was part of a Snapchat group named “slave trade” and used photos of other students in the group, using derogatory comments that included racial and homophobic slurs.
Newberg High School Principal Tami Erion described the incident in a September 14 letter to parents and shared with CNN by the school district.
The chat group originated in Michigan last year, but school administrators were only recently made aware of the group of the student’s participation, Erion said.
In a letter to the school community, Morelock said several people, including students had reported it and ensured them that “racist and bullying behavior had no place in the school district.”
That incident is being investigated, Morelock said, but any disciplinary action would not be shared to protect students’ privacy.
The proposed policy has drawn criticism beyond the school community.
“A minimal demonstration of that humanity, a flag, a banner, a sign, is all it could take for a student to feel safe. Each student is unique, and every one deserves our love and care,” Martinez-Zapata added.