/  09.21.2021

An employee at an elementary school in Oregon has been placed on administrative leave after she showed up and protested the school’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate dressed as civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

As reported by CBS affiliate KOIN, special education assistant Lauren Pefferie of the Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg purposely planned to wear Blackface for the demonstration and darkened her face with iodine in preparation of the event. Per an unidentified staff member, Pefferie reportedly hoped that her costume and actions would help her to silently speak out against the vaccine requirement. Instead, she was moved from the location as her actions were considered an expression of racism.

“Last Friday (Sept. 17), one of our employees reported for work in Blackface,” the school district said in a statement. “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,” the district went on. “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.”

The district’s superintendent Joe Morelock also addressed the incident in a Newberg conference, noting that Pefferie’s actions don’t align with the behavior of his other staff members. “I am horrified, angry and ashamed this has happened, as is nearly every other staff member,” he said. “This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff have believed, and it is unfathomably offensive.


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