Elementary School Staffer Wears Blackface to Work in Protest of Vaccine Mandate

A staff member at an elementary school in Newberg, Oregon, showed up to work in Blackface last week in a highly controversial protest against COVID-19 vaccine mandates, the school district said in a statement Monday.

The employee at Mabel Rush Elementary School reportedly darkened her face with iodine and told fellow staff members that she wanted to look like Rosa Parks while protesting vaccination requirements, according to The Newberg Graphic.

The Newberg School District said the employee, who was not identified, was removed from campus during the incident and immediately placed on administrative leave.

"The administration of Newberg Public Schools condemns all expressions of racism," the school district said in a statement on Monday. "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."

Newberg Oregon
An elementary school staffer in Newberg, Oregon, wore Blackface to work on Friday in protest of vaccine mandates. This landscape photo shows Oregon's Willamette Valley Wine Country on April 11, 2019, near Newberg. George Rose/Getty Images

The protest followed a statewide mandate that says all K-12 school employees in Oregon must be fully vaccinated by October 18. The requirement was enacted by Democratic Governor Kate Brown last month amid a surge of new coronavirus cases in both children and adults.

"There are those who will disagree with the actions I'm taking today," Brown said in August while announcing the new safety measure. "But school is starting across the state, and COVID-19 poses a threat to our kids. Our kids need to be protected, and they need to be in school. And that's why I'm willing to take the heat for this decision."

The Blackface incident in Newberg comes after the district faced scrutiny last week when high school students were connected to a racist "slave trade" social media group, which joked about how much students would pay for their Black classmates in an auction.

The school has also recently received backlash for a decision to ban all "controversial political symbols" in the district, including Black Lives Matter and Pride flags, the news outlet reported.

On Monday, the school district said that incident reports related to discrimination or bullying are "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. Blackface has no place in our schools, and we are committed to the work of creating spaces where every student belongs as we move forward together in our mission of educating students," the district added.