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Newberg school board votes to ban teachers from displaying BLM, Pride symbols in classrooms

The school board voted 4-3 to ban teachers from displaying symbols in the classroom that are considered "political, quasi-political or controversial."

NEWBERG, Ore. — Newberg School Board's conservative majority has voted 4-3 to ban teachers from displaying symbols in the classroom that are considered "political, quasi-political or controversial," including Black Lives Matter (BLM) and Pride flags.

The decision came during a meeting Tuesday evening following weeks of debate, with many rallying in the streets against the ban since board director Brian Shannon first proposed it in early August. 

Shannon, along with fellow board directors Dave Brown, Renee Powell and Trevor DeHart, have been in favor of the ban since the beginning. 

"It's very straight forward and to my mind it shouldn't be controversial. We don't pay our teachers to push their political views on our students. That's not their place," Shannon said during Tuesday's meeting. "Their place is to teach the approved curriculum, and that's all this policy does is ensure that's happening in our schools."

Directors Ines Peña, Rebecca Piros and Brandy Penner have remained opposed to the ban. 

"I think the point of this is to show that you are trying to sow division with extremist views and you have no interest in listening to community," Penner retorted. 

The school board initially voted in favor of explicitly banning BLM and Pride symbols in all district buildings. That was met with mixed reactions, including national outcry against the decision and protest from the public. 

"I just find it so upsetting these are four people who are straight and white and they get to choose. It's not choosing what is best for the students, it's choosing what they want for the students," student Cooper Oakes told KGW. "The number one priority should be safety and feeling loved. And that is not what they're showing. I understand that it's a learning environment, but I don't want to learn somewhere where I'm not being respected."

The backlash led the school board to consider rescinding the ban on Sept. 1. Instead, they adopted new language based on legal concerns. That language removed the specific mentions of BLM and Pride symbols, and instead more broadly banned "political, quasi-political or controversial" symbols.

Dozens rallied in Newberg against the updated ban proposal ahead of Tuesday's vote.