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Oregon teacher wears blackface in protest of school vaccine mandate, claims she is Rosa Parks

Updated: Oct 29, 2021

Last Friday, an elementary school employee in Newberg, Oregon, decided to protest the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate by arriving to work wearing blackface and identifying herself as being in alignment with civil rights icon Rosa Parks.

The employee, identified as Lauren Pefferle, is a special education assistant at Mabel Rush Elementary School. According to a report from a current school employee, Pefferle's actions were in protest of Oregon's recently passed COVID-19 vaccine mandates for school district employees; workers are required to be fully vaccinated by October 18. Pefferle allegedly darkened her face with iodine prior to showing up for work with the intention of looking like Rosa Parks.

The Newberg School District has released a statement condemning Pefferle's actions and acknowledging her placement on administrative leave. The statement did not clarify whether Pefferle will receive pay while on leave. The district did, however, address the racist origins of Blackface while also condemning racism in general.

"Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface. The employee was removed from the location, and HR has placed the employee on administrative leave," according to the statement. "The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism."

The blackface incident is a part of a pattern of racist incidents in the school district.

Earlier this month, the Newberg School District was rocked by another race-based scandal when a group of parents blew the whistle on a student-run Snapchat group entitled "Slave Trade." Members of the group chat made "bids" for their Black classmates in mock human auctions with some students even calling for the death of Black classmates. At least one student opined for "another Holocaust."

And in the midst of trying to control the fallout from its "slave-trading" students, the Newberg School Board also took the time to pass a ban on "controversial political symbols" in its schools, with a conspicuous focus on Black Lives Matter and LGBT pride flags.

Superintendent Joe Morelock addressed the districts racial woes in a statement that seemed to slyly acknowledge that some district employees may hold racist views or, at the very least, find racism tolerable.

"I am horrified, angry and ashamed this has happened, as is nearly every other staff member. This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff have believed and it is unfathomably offensive," said Morelock.

Despite the recurring issues, some Newberg residents are keeping the faith. Tai Harden-Moore, a former candidate for school board whose children attend school in the district, hopes that Newberg move beyond this incident through stronger, more principled leadership in the community.

Referencing a recent incident where a local county commissioner, who is white, referred to vaccine mandates a being reminiscent of Jim Crow laws, Moore told the Newberg Graphic, "Our county leadership is saying basic public health measures are akin to Jim Crow. There is a line between our political leadership and something like this happening. Our leadership matters."



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