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Oregon school employee suspended for going to work in blackface

Newberg Public Schools decried the troubling incident that unfolded Friday.

A school employee in suburban Portland, Oregon, was suspended after showing up at campus in blackface, the school district announced Monday.

The troubling incident happened last week at a Newberg Public School campus just a few miles southwest of Portland, leading to the employee's being "removed from the location" and placed on administrative leave, the school district said.

The employee of Mabel Rush Elementary School wore the blackface to evoke the memory of civil rights icon Rosa Parks and protest a vaccination mandate for all public school employees in Oregon, the Newberg Graphic newspaper reported.

"The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism," the statement said. "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."

All public school employees in Oregon must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 18.

"Blackface has no place in our schools, and we are committed to the work of created spaces where every student belongs as we move forward together in our mission of educating students," the district added.

Superintendent Joe Morelock could not be immediately reached for comment Monday. A spokeswoman for the Oregon School Employees Association, the largest union for support staff members at state public schools, said she was not aware of the incident.

Gregg Koskela, communications coordinator for Newberg Public Schools, would not confirm whether the blackface was worn to protest the vaccination mandate.

"The district has no comment on any motivation of the employee," Koskela said. "The incident itself is unacceptable on our campuses, and the action matters far more than any intention."

The incident happened the same week it was revealed that students at Newberg High School were participating in mocking, online "Slave Trade." Students joked about how much they'd pay to own Black classmates.

The school board is also considering a ban on any political symbols, such as gay pride flags or visible support for Black Lives Matter.