A staff member at the Mabel Rush Elementary School in Newberg has been placed on administrative leave after she reported to work donning blackface to protest a vaccine mandate that was implemented for school district workers, KOIN reported.
The employee, identified as Lauren Pefferle, also referred to herself as Rosa Parks – the renowned African-American civil rights activist who played a key role in the Montgomery bus boycott.
A co-worker who spoke with the news outlet said Pefferle is “a special education assistant who the school district said it would not name due to it being a personnel matter.” Pefferle reportedly used iodine to darken her face.
The co-worker added that Pefferle gave reasons for donning blackface, saying she wanted to look like Rosa Parks in order to protest the implemented vaccine mandate. A statement from the district said Pefferle was ultimately made to leave the school afterward.
“Last Friday, one of our employees reported for work in Blackface,” the statement said. “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.”
The statement added: “Each incident report is always taken seriously as we diligently follow our policies to investigate and take appropriate action. 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.”
This incident comes after Face2Face Africa recently reported that students at Newberg High School participated in a virtual “slave trade” where they shared photos of their Black classmates in a social media group chat and discussed how much they were going to purchase them to mimic a slave auction.
Screenshots of the chats reportedly showed the participants sharing photos of their Black classmates and talking about their worth as well as their personal lives. Some of the comments the participants made in the chat included, “All Blacks should die”, “Let’s have another Holocaust” and “They like picking cotton.”
And parents got to know about the group chat on the same day the Newberg school board was scheduled to hold a discussion on its decision to ban Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride symbols on campus.
The school board claims such symbols are politically controversial.