The Newberg City Council voted 6-1 on Aug. 17 to affirm its support for Mayor Rick Roger's admonishment of the Newberg school board for its recent actions to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags in classrooms.
"On Aug. 6, Newberg Mayor Rick Rogers submitted a letter to the Newberg school board regarding the board's planned action regarding flags in classrooms and the possibility of revisiting the district's anti-racism policy," the council wrote. "The objective of the letter was to note that the school board's recent (and planned) actions impact not just the students, parents, teachers and staff at our schools; the action impacts all Newberg residents (and possible future residents). … Given this, we the undersigned, feel the board's recent (and planned) actions make Newberg less welcoming, which is a determinant to, and not reflective of, the character of our community. We hope you reconsider your decisions."
The school board's four-person majority did not reconsider its decision but rather doubled down and hired outside legal counsel sympathetic to its goals of banning the symbols in classrooms (see front page story).
In Roger's Aug. 6 letter, he posed a question to the four school board members that carried through their resolution to ban BLM and Pride symbols in classrooms, querying how that looks to people outside the community:
"Imagine this if you will: a minority and/or woman-owned business is looking to relocate. A traded-sector company, the business is eyeing Newberg as a location to expand. Their expansion will bring hundreds of family-wage jobs to our community. Recruitment is going well. The company is very interested, and the idled mill site looks very promising. The Newberg-Dundee bypass is an added enticement. Then the business owners see this: "House Majority Leader Condemns Newberg School Board Attempt to Overturn Antiracist Policy." "BIPOC Caucus Condemns Newberg School Board Attempt to Overturn Antiracist Policy."
Rogers continued, asking the board how their decision paints the community:
"Did I say that the business hypothetically mentioned is a minority and/or woman-owned? How do you think they might feel?Â
"If not a relocating business, then what about would-be residents of Friendsview, students of color at George Fox University, first-year engineers hoping to join A-dec, or well-heeled visitors looking to spend their disposable income in our downtown?Â
"While you may believe your actions only affect the school district, please know in truth your actions impact us all. To thrive, Newberg must be welcoming to all."
Bonamici adds to the chorus of condemnation
First Congressional District Rep. Suzanne Bonamici joined those who have condemned the recent actions by the school board, issuing a statement on Thursday.
"Students need a welcoming and safe school environment, and all school leaders should strive every day to make sure students know they are valued and respected," she wrote. "The Newberg school board's move to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ pride symbols in schools is antithetical to this bedrock value.
"In my conversations with community members, I have heard the heartache and profound concern many of us share about this decision. It is painful to see this beautiful, vibrant and diverse community receive negative national attention because of the deeply misguided actions of a few school board members. I applaud the students, parents and school staff who are standing up for themselves and for students of color and LGBTQ students. I stand with you."
Democratic Caucus weighs in on issue
Last week the Legislature's House Democratic Caucus joined a growing list of groups outside the city calling to question the school board's actions.
"What is happening in Newberg is undemocratic, unconstitutional and an affront to the safety and well-being of all students," the caucus wrote in a prepared statement. "As leaders, we are first and foremost public servants. Our role is to foster a safe environment for students to learn, grow and succeed. Chair Dave Brown, Vice-Chair Brian Shannon, Director Renee Powell and Director Trevor DeHart are showing a shameless disregard of public meeting laws and insistence on rushing through the process."
The statement continued, questioning the impact the board's decisions will have on students.
Â "These decisions are harmful, distracting and impact every student's ability to learn in the classroom," the caucus wrote. "The divisive message the board is sending to LGBTQ+ and Black children and students is that their worth and well-being do not matter. Already, we know LGBTQ+ students face high rates of suicide and Black students face higher rates of discipline in the classroom. Newberg's misguided decision only makes things worse by creating a hostile environment. … When a school board violates public meeting laws in order to prioritize bigotry over the success of all students, they are opening themselves up to potential legal action, including the loss of funds for their district."
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