A staff member at Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg, Oregon, showed up to work in Blackface on Friday, Sept. 17, to protest against a vaccine mandate for all school district staff members.
A fellow staff member revealed to The Newberg Graphic that Lauren Pefferle, a special ed assistant, showed up to the school after darkening her face with iodine and called herself Rosa Parks - an African-American civil rights activist whose refusal to give up her seat to a white passenger on a segregated bus led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
The staff member, who asked to remain anonymous, said Pefferle explained that she intented to look like Rosa Parks to protest against a mandate requiring school district employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Pefferle Removed from School Grounds, Placed on Administrative Leave
Following the incident, Pefferle was removed from the school grounds and placed on administrative leave, according to a statement issued by the Newberg Oregon School District.
"Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface," the Newberg School District said in a statement released Monday, Sept. 20. "The employee was removed from the location and (human resources) has placed the employee on administrative leave. The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism.
"It is important to remember how Blackface has been used to misrepresent Black communities and do harm. We acknowledge the violence this represents and the trauma it evokes regardless of intention.
"Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action. We continue to work towards a safe and welcoming environment in our schools that is free from bullying and reduces mental, emotional and physical harm as we move forward together in our mission of educating students."
Newberg School District's Recent String of Controversies
The Newberg school district has recently been in the news over a series of controversies linked to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Last week, a Newberg High School student was connected to a racist "slave trade" Snapchat group, in which teenagers from different parts of the country share racist, homophobic and violent messages, sometimes specifically targeting Black students.
Furthermore, a conservative majority on the Newberg school board prepares a town hall meeting on a policy that would effectively ban Pride and Black Lives Matter flags and symbols from classrooms.