School employee suspended for wearing blackface to protest district’s vaccine policies

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:44 AM EDT
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NEWBERG, Ore. (Gray News) - An Oregon school employee was placed on administrative leave for wearing blackface during a protest against the school district’s COVID-19 policies.

A Newberg Public Schools District employee, who did not give her name, said she showed up to school on Sept. 17 with a darkened face to protest the district’s policy that unvaccinated staff must social distance.

She likened the policy to segregation and said she wanted to channel Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights era.

The employee said she doesn’t understand why her actions are causing offense and accusations of racism.

“On Friday, September 17, I showed up to school, and I put on some dark makeup on the parts that were showing my skin, including my hands,” she said. “And I came in hopes to represent Rosa Parks, who I admire for standing up during her time when segregation was taking place. I felt like I and others who are unvaccinated, we’re starting to experience segregation.”

The district held a community meeting after the incident and the Newberg Public Schools released a statement Monday.

In the statement, they condemned the employee’s action, acknowledging the use of blackface to demean Black people in the U.S. and “the trauma it evokes regardless of intention.”

Superintendent Dr. Joe Morelock said he’s “horrified, angry and ashamed” about what happened.

“This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff believe, and is unfathomably offensive,” he said in a statement.

Blackface was originally used in 19th-century minstrel shows by white actors in negative and mocking depictions of Black people.

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. CNN Newsource contributed to this report.