A Portland high school teacher removed the American flag from her classroom, saying it represents ‘violence and menace and intolerance’ in protest of a new ban on Black Lives Matter and Pride symbols.
The Newberg School Board recently introduced a ban which prohibits ‘political’ symbols in classrooms, which was passed by the board to stop staff flying Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ symbols such as pride flags in classrooms.
In response the new resolution, Gail Grobey removed the American flag from her classroom at Newberg High School ‘because that’s the most political symbol there is,’ according to The Newberg Graphic.
‘That symbol doesn’t stand for freedom or justice or equality anymore. It stands for violence and menace and intolerance, and I will not fly that in my room.’
Gail Grobey removed the flag in protest of a controversial school board policy banning ‘political’ symbols in the classroom claiming it ‘doesn’t stand for freedom or justice or equality anymore. It stands for violence and menace and intolerance’
Superintendent Joe Morelock announced that the Newberg Oregon School District will not comply with the ban stating the district’s legal team questions the legality and has signifigant issues with the language of the policy
The school board’s policy committee states that: ‘No district employee shall, while acting within the scope of their employment, either during school hours, or inside their physical area of responsibility at a school (such as a classroom, meeting room, desk area) hang, post, erect or otherwise display … any posters, signs, flags, banners, pictures or other digital or physical image that depicts support or opposition relating to a political, quasi-political or controversial topic.
‘For purposes of this policy, a controversial topic shall be defined as one that a professional educator could reasonably understand to have students on more than one side of said issue.
‘For purposes of this policy, a political or quasi-political topic includes contemporary issues being debated in the local, state or national political climate.’
Grobey is an English teacher at Newberg High School and the former president of the Newberg Education Association. Newberg, Oregon is a suburb in the Portland metropolitan area.
She said the teachers’ union is mobilizing against the new resolution which they believe brings added stress and distraction to a school year already beginning with the added pressure of COVID-19 mandates.
‘We’re trying to start a school year positively, and the distractions these four people (on the school board) are putting out there are not making that very easy,’ Grobey, said ahead of the first day of school on September 8.
‘It’s challenging to think about putting together the beginning of school but still feeling really compelled to take action as a body to show the kids and families how much we support them and who they are.’
The Newberg Education Association, which Grobey is a part of, has already filed a tort claim against the restrictive policy and is considering further legal action along with the ACLU
Grobey told The Graphic that the NEA is organizing a committee to determine how the union will respond to the new policy beyond the tort claim that the NEA filed last month. Other possible lawsuits from the NEA and the ACLU have been mentioned.
‘We are certainly going to become very active in terms of supporting the community coalition that has formed against these actions by the board,’ Grobey said.
‘There are groups out there in the community who have a stake in this as parents and community members of varying backgrounds.’
She claims that the majority of teachers in the district oppose the new policy although most of them didn’t have Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ+ symbols in their classrooms to begin with.
Superintendent Joe Morelock has said that the Newberg Oregon School District will not comply with the policy, stating the district’s legal team questions the legality of such a ban. The Oregon School Board Association has agreed with the school district and said that they have significant issues with the language of the policy.
Grobey has been a part of the school district for 23 years. She believes that she knows how to foster a safe learning environment for her students without the direction of the school board.
‘I know my kids, and I know what’s best for them and what to do to help them feel comfortable.’
The debate in Newberg comes amid a growing national argument over flags in classrooms. Two teachers in California have been put on administrative leave and are set to be fired after they displayed controversial flags in their classroom.
Kristin Pitzen, of Newport Mesa School District in Orange County caused a stir when she posted a since-deleted TikTok video claiming that the American flag made her ‘uncomfortable’ and had her students say the pledge of allegiance to the gay pride flag.
Gabriel Gipe, of Inderkum High School in Sacramento, faced complaints from parents when a student reported that the Antifa flag and Chinese Communist Party poster that he hung in his classroom made them uncomfortable.
Both teachers have since been fired as a result.
As debate on the ban continued on Tuesday a racist Snapchat group message between Newberg High School students called ‘Slave Trade’ was discovered by parents
Students used the chat to run an online mock slave auction of their fellow Black classmates
The public debate on political symbols in Newberg classrooms was set to take place at 7pm on Tuesday just hours before Newberg High School parents made the disturbing discovery of a student group chat called ‘Slave Trade.’
Students used the Snapchat group message to run an online mock slave auction of their fellow Black classmates. The students haggled prices and left racist comments such as ‘All Blacks should die’ and ‘Let’s have another Holocaust.’
‘My heart is so broken for these kids who have gotten the message that they are not even seen as human by some of their fellow students,’ Heidi Pender, the mother of a Black student at the school told KGW8.
‘To imagine your own child being talked about as if they were subhuman slaves to be sold by other students, it made me feel like I was going to throw up.’
‘As a community, we continue to grapple with issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging,’ Newberg High School Principal Tami Erion said.
‘Newberg High School is committed to ensuring that ALL students are afforded a safe learning environment by prohibiting harassment based upon gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.’