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A local student organization and the area Chamber of Commerce sent letters warning that the school board's actions could have ill effects.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Protesters gathered after the Newberg School Board passed rules banning the display of Black Lives Matter or Pride symbols in schools.Adding to the groups and institutions who have publicly condemned the Newberg school board for its ban on Black Lives Matter and Pride signage, the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce sent the board a sternly worded letter in late August about how the ban is impacting local businesses.

"We want to make you aware, as indicated by the notes below, that citizens outside the community have been contacting us, both by email and by telephone, to inform us of their intent to boycott Newberg businesses because of the recent school board meetings," the letter said. "As business leaders and owners, we are very concerned about the impact this has on our businesses and on the reputation of our community. Our concerns are not just about the controversy spun up by recent school board meetings, but around the way the proposals are being discussed, particularly as they get amplified across social media. This is not a proud moment for our community."

The letter was signed by Chamber president and vice president Tonna Faxon and Morgan Kullowatz, recent past president Mark Moisan, secretary Philip Higins and treasurer Alyssa Johnson, with the backing of many business owners in the area. Social media has been filled with messages that substantiate the Chamber's claims of potential boycotts, including one user saying they plan to skip over Newberg next time they go wine tasting in the region.

The chamber continued with its condemnation of the board's actions in its letter.

"Now, more than ever, we think it's important for the school board, the business community, and all of Newberg to rally around a student-centric agenda that positions our schools to provide the best quality education for as many as possible," the letter said. "Now would be a good time for the school board to focus on agenda that the board members, and the educators they serve, can all agree on, and not one that pits members of the community against each other or makes national headlines at the expense of the reputation of our community."

Politically active youth speak out

Among the first student groups to publicly call out the school board was the Oregon High School Democrats (ORHSD). The group is the official high school branch of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

"We are a collection of high school activists and politically active students from across Oregon," Ben Wieser, communications director of the student group, wrote in an email. "In response to the Newberg school board's 4-3 vote to 'remove BLM/ Pride signs, flags, placards, symbols from school,' ORHSD wrote a letter addressed to the four members of the school board that voted for the ban. On Aug. 16, we posted the letter on our social platforms and asked students from across Oregon to join us in our condemnation of this blatant attack on free speech and the advancement of an intentionally divisive political agenda.

On Aug. 27, the ORHSD sent 187 student, parent and educator signatures from across the state to the board as well, condemning its actions.


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