PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – An Oregon school district is investigating a student’s involvement in a racist group on social media.
A worried student from Newberg High School recently shared screenshots online that show racial slurs and homophobic comments from another student posted to the Snapchat group called “Slave Trade.”
Newberg High School principal Tami Erion confirmed in a letter sent to parents and staff on Tuesday that the district learned of the student’s participation in the group last week. Erion said school officials immediately began investigating “the serious and inappropriate incident.”
Part of Erion’s statement reads: âWe are deeply dismayed that this behavior and activity has been exhibited by anyone in our community. We condemn actions such as these which represent the antithesis of what we believe in and our standing as a Newberg Nation family. As a community, we continue to grapple with issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. Newberg High School is committed to ensuring a safe learning environment for ALL students by prohibiting harassment based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.
Oregon House Majority Leader and House Education Committee Chair Barbara Smith Warner as well as House Education Committee Chair Teresa Alonso Leon D-Woodburn have Responded to the incident in a statement, claiming that the student involved in the Snapchat group had joked about “the Black Classmates auction.”
âIncidents like this are exactly what make black college students feel like their lives don’t matter. As the House Majority Leader and Chairman of the House Education Committee, we stand by your side and affirm that Black Lives Matter and Black Students’ Lives Matter, âwrote Warner and Alonso Leon.
âThe slave trade was the genesis of centuries of genocide and violence against black communities, displacing, enslaving and harming millions of families. If we are to heal as a state and as a country then we need to understand our history and how violence has been used to oppress the BIPOC and LGBTQ + communities to this day, âthey wrote.
At a Newberg school board meeting on Tuesday night, concerned parents spoke about the social media posts.
âThe fact that a student in our community feels comfortable enough to adopt such disgusting behavior is a clear illustration of the racism and discrimination that plagues this community,â said Tai Harden-Moore.
Newberg’s father, Brandon Casey, said: âA kid makes a really bad decision and a bad decision – it needs to be fixed. If that’s what happened, that doesn’t mean the city is a horrible, systemically racist thing. ”
In their statement, Warner and Alonso Leon also encouraged policies banning hate symbols and urged the Newberg school board to reverse the ban on Black Lives Matter and Pride signs and “refocus on creating an environment safe and welcoming to students “.
The board is embroiled in a controversy over its ban on LGBTQ Pride and Black Lives Matter flags and symbols on school grounds.
The board passed the ban by 4-3 in August. Those in favor said the BLM and Pride symbols are political and have no place in public schools.
âThe timing, especially with everything going on with school districts here, I think it kind of shows that we need to show kids that we need to empathize with others,â Kendall Hazel said. , a resident of Newberg.
Many BLM and Pride flags could be seen outside Newberg homes on Tuesday. Chalk art messages supporting the BLM movement and rejecting hate were left outside Newberg High School.
“We remain deeply concerned with the direction the board is taking, but when it comes to the lawsuit, we are still working closely with lawyers from multiple parties to make sure it is as strong as possible,” Drew Gallagher, vice president of the Newberg Education Association, said in a statement shared with KOIN. âWe posted a comment on our FB page because you might not know it, but the board just changed its policy that the chairman of the board now has the ability to verify public comments and potential commentators should indicate the topic of their choice and their opinion on the topic so that the chairperson allows them to speak in public [sic], which, as you can imagine, is incredibly bossy, disheartening, and frightening.
Erion said in the statement that an investigation was underway and that the school “was following the board’s policy regarding harassment, bullying and potential disciplinary action.”