PDX Dispatch 1.20.23: Subduing the Suburbs

In relation to Portland Newberg Oregon is 25 miles to the south and about 25 years in the past. The most striking difference you notice there is the ratio of American to Rainbow flags.

In September 2021 a conservative majority on Newberg’s school board voted to ban the display of BLM and Pride flags in school buildings.

School board director and vice chair Brian Shannon…asked his fellow board members to not only ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags and signs from district buildings, but also ban teachers from wearing BLM and Pride clothing while at work…

In the end, the board voted 4-3 in favor of a ban, but more work lies ahead.

The board is expected to consider re-examining the Oregon Department of Education’s Every Student Belongs policy at the suggestion of Shannon. The student-driven, bipartisan legislation aims to create a safe and inclusive school environment while prohibiting hate symbols like the swastika, confederate flag and noose.

Because of the prevalence of swastikas, confederate flags and nooses in classrooms, you know. The Oregon Department of Education’s Every Student Belongs policy was implemented in February of 2021 with the stated intent of preempting local school boards like Newberg’s from doing just this.

WHEREAS, we recognize that there are people who hold power in education, including on school boards in Oregon, who have taken action or are considering action to limit the display of signs, flags, placards, and symbols conveying that Black Lives Matter and showing solidarity and
safety for LGBTQ2SIA+ students, families, and employees; in opposition to their communities, colleagues, and the values of the Oregon State Board of Education.

Every Student Belongs includes a BLM resolution, one for gender “identity” and a “Safe and Welcoming Schools” resolution (addressing xenophobia), all written as if there was an ongoing national pogrom against queers, Blacks! and immigrants. The initiative all but mandates BLM and rainbow flags.

The legislature was roused of course.

As a BIPOC caucus, we’re keeping a very close eye on this,” said Oregon state Rep. Ricki Ruiz [“he, him, el”]. 

Local media feared for the lives of Black! students without BLM flags to ward off white supremacy, favorably reporting on the “dozens” protesting the rule. The ACLU mobilized. Reports turned up of a student joking about trading some of the Black! students as slaves on Snapchat, someone heard the word “nigger” somewhere and an instance of blackface was uncovered, all purporting to show the racist hell that is tiny Newberg. From the ACLU’s lawsuit

September 14, 2021: Reports emerged that at least one Newberg High School student had participated in a national Snapchat group titled “Slave Trade.”  The group, which reportedly originated with a user in Michigan, included teenagers from around the country who posted photos of their Black classmates and derogatorily “bid” on them as though they were auctioning off their classmates as slaves. The one Newberg student identified as involved had posted, “They can run but they can’t hide,” after posting in the group with a photo of two Black classmates, with the statements, “100$ each. They like picking cotton.” Another member responded, “I’ll take them for 150 as the pair because the ones [g]ay. I don’t fuck wit da homos.” Other members responded with statements like, “Mans sus he comes as a bonus, he’s free,” “Mans so gay, I’ll kill him for Jesus,” and “All blacks should die, let’s have another holocaust.”

September 17, 2021: A staff member at Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg showed up to work in Blackface.

The national outcry drew even AOC into the mix; she interrupted her vacation (Newberg is in Oregon’s wine country) to take pictures with adoring locals.


Belatedly the school board extended the rule to include all political material in anticipation of the ACLU’s lawsuit; that came in December of 2021.

The teacher’s union and four individual teachers filed a separate lawsuit and the school district settled, rescinding the ban on January 18.

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A school district in Oregon has quietly rescinded its ban on educators displaying symbols of the Black Lives Matter movement or gay pride, following a court settlement with a teachers’ union.

Newberg, Ore., a town of about 25,000 residents nestled in Oregon’s wine country, had became an unlikely focal point for the national battle over schooling between the left and right. Newberg lies 25 miles (40 kilometers) southwest of Portland.

In 2021, the board banned school staff from displaying Black Lives Matter and gay pride symbols, then expanded the ban to all political or controversial signs after being advised the first rule wouldn’t survive a legal challenge.

The Newberg City Council and multiple Democratic members of the Oregon House and Senate all condemned the school board’s action.

The Newberg School Board voted unanimously on Jan. 10 to rescind the controversial policy, a month after the Newberg Education Association announced it had settled its federal civil rights lawsuit over the matter.

“The policy will not be amended or changed, it is gone,” Newberg schools Superintendent Stephen Phillips told Oregon Public Broadcasting.

A few years ago I heard a spot on local radio, on either the socialist-progressive non-profit KBOO or NPR, about a program by which the left is going out into rural and semi-rural Oregon to politically groom young people into the wokeness matrix and cultivate them for leadership roles in it.

Portland already dominates state elections with its disproportionate share of the state’s population. The program (which I’ve been unable to find for this post) seems determined to flush out the last bastions of conservative resistance to the new order.

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