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A racial slur was found written in the snow at Newberg High School in early February

During a school closure due to weather concerns on the morning of Feb. 5, Newberg School District officials discovered a racial slur drawn in the snow at the Newberg High School football field. The incident led to instant condemnation from the district and, soon after, from interim superintendent Joe Morelock.

Staff cleared the area of snow immediately and the district put out a statement later that day asking for tips or information about the incident.

Morelock released a lengthy statement Feb. 12, saying he personally observed the scene and called it "troubling" – particularly because February is Black History Month and that some families in Newberg and Dundee "feel unwelcome in their own town or in their school and live in fear of retribution if they speak out."

He encouraged people in the community to educate themselves on the history of racial oppression in America and read literature by authors of color. Morelock also provided resources for teachers to deal with issues of racial bias in a classroom setting.

"This is not who we aspire to be," Morelock said in the statement. "We will not let a cowardly and despicable act of hate define our community nor our district mission of educating, including and celebrating all. Any acts of hate or discrimination will not, and must not, be tolerated in any setting."

In an email message on Feb. 13, district communications coordinator Gregg Koskela said there is an ongoing investigation into the incident, but the district and NHS didn't have any leads at that point.

Morelock said in his statement that, regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the onus is on the community to call out racially biased statements or jokes. He said it can be as simple as interrupting the person making the joke or statement and speaking out in favor of the marginalized group.

"Question what the speaker means when they say hateful things," Morelock wrote. "Explain why those kinds of terms or phrases are offensive and hurtful. Support others by echoing them when they stand up and speak out against bias and hate. Resist the urge to stay silent because it's uncomfortable for you to talk about racism."

Those with information about the incident or who want to submit an anonymous tip may call high school administration or visit SafeOregon.com. Tips can also be submitted at the district website: Newberg.k12.or.us.

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