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Neighbors build Pride flag in view of Newberg High School after school board ban

The school board voted 4-3 to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags in schools, but neighbors argue those marginalized groups are not political.

NEWBERG, Ore. — Following last week's Newberg School Board vote to ban Pride and Black Lives Matter flags in schools, neighbors have constructed a large Progress Pride flag within view of the high school.

"We wanted maximum visibility," Erin McCarthy said. "The result is pretty amazing, we love it."

Erin and her husband Jaybill own a hillside farm in Newberg about a mile and half from Newberg High School. A clearing through the trees on their hill reveals the 17' by 30' painted plywood Pride Flag within view of the high school football field.

"I wish it could be 10 times bigger," Erin said.

On Aug. 10, the school board voted 4-3 to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags.

"To get political symbols and divisive symbols out of our schools," argued vice chair Brian Shannon.

RELATED: Newberg school board votes to ban BLM, Pride flags and signs in district buildings

"'We're going to erase a bunch of people,' is what it felt like to me," Jaybill said.

The couple posted on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit that they planned to build a flag in protest.

The posts received hundreds of responses, with people donating money for materials. 

On Sunday, a small group of strangers arrived to help the couple build and paint the flag.

"From all over," Erin described. "Someone from Forest Grove came, someone from Dundee came, people from Portland came..."

The Progress Pride flag, originally designed by an Oregonian, represents the LGBTQ community, with colors to also represent people of color.

RELATED: Portland creator of Progress Pride Flag pushes LGBTQ culture, movement forward

The McCarthys argue symbols supporting these marginalized communities are not political.

"It's not expressing a Democratic idea or Republican idea or conservative or liberal," Erin said. "It's human beings."

"It's recognition that people exist," Jaybill added.

Studies by the Trevor Project show lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are five times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide because of bullying and lack of support. That rate goes up for transgender youth.

During last week's school board meeting, mother Tai Harden-Moore argued her Black son also does not feel safe in Newberg schools.

"Because my son was called a n****** in school," she told the board.

Advocates for Pride and Black Lives Matter symbols in schools said the flags show another layer of support for marginalized groups.

Bans like this one are not new.

In the 90s and 2000s, a man named Lon Mabon fought for Oregon Measure 9, which aimed to ban schools from even mentioned homosexuality, lumping it together with pedophilia.

Some in Newberg's School Board meeting made a similar argument against Pride flags, saying they show support for "deviants." 

RELATED: Group honors queer heroes, rewriting Oregon and Washington history with truth

The McCarthy's completed flag is now visible to the many planes and hot air balloons that fly over the hill. The rooftop of their barn also has the word "LOVE" painted on a rainbow backdrop.

To LGBTQ and BIPOC youth in nearby schools, the couple wants to share a message that all colors belong in Newberg.

"You are not alone," Erin said. "Even though this is difficult there are people who are there for you."

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