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Newberg school staff member who wore blackface to protest vaccine mandate reportedly fired

The staff member attempted to dress like Rosa Parks to protest Oregon's vaccine mandate for K-12 teachers and staff members.

NEWBERG, Ore. — The Newberg School District has fired the staff member who showed up to work wearing blackface as she attempted to dress like Rosa Parks to protest the state's vaccine mandate for teachers, according to a report. 

Ryan Clarke, a reporter with The Newberg Graphic, said Lauren Pefferle who works at Mabel Rush Elementary as a teacher's aid for special education students was fired Sept. 24, according to another employee at the school. Pefferle was placed on administrative leave last week after darkening her face to resemble Rosa Parks. 

Friday, the district said it could not confirm the firing and sent a statement that said, "It is our policy not to confirm whether someone works with us or not, and not to confirm the outcome of disciplinary processes. In all these situations we follow our contracts with employees in which the first step is to place on administrative leave while we investigate and pursue any disciplinary action. That action can include termination."

The Newberg School District has been involved in several controversies recently that have gained national attention, including some students from Newberg High School participating in— or being targeted by— a social media group chat called "Slave Trade." It joked about how much participants would pay for their Black classmates and used photos of students, along with racist and homophobic slurs. 

For months, the district's school board has also been trying to ban teachers from hanging Black Lives Matter and Pride flags in their classrooms. Recently, the school board beefed up the ban to include all "controversial political symbols" in schools. 

Earlier this week, dozens in the city of Newberg just 45 minutes outside of Portland, gathered to rally against hate, with Black Lives Matter and Pride flags as well as signs to show love.  

"We need to lift each other up," Amanda Morales, a former Newberg resident at the rally, said. "There's so much that's hurtful in this world. We need to be good to one another."

"Newberg can be better," said parent Tai Harden-Moore. "I think this showing proves that. All we endured this week, this community is better than that."

The Newberg school board is continuing to hold meetings to discuss the ban on political symbols. The next meeting is scheduled for next week.