Oregon school district reprimands employee who came to work in blackface

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(Reuters) - An Oregon school district on Monday placed an employee on administrative leave for coming to work in blackface, reportedly to protest a COVID-19 vaccine requirement.

The employee was removed from the workplace on Friday and placed on leave pending an investigation, the administration of Newberg Public Schools said in a statement.

A staff member at Mabel Rush Elementary School darkened her face to look like Black civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks in protest of a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for all district staff, the Newberg Graphic reported, citing a fellow staff member who asked to remain anonymous.

"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," the school district statement said.

The statement, which condemned "all expressions of racism," said administrators would "take appropriate action" after the investigation, but did not provide further details.

The racist tradition of white people wearing blackface dates to slavery as a means to mock Black slaves.

A spokesperson for the school district did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month, the Newberg school board prompted an outcry by issuing a ban on displaying LGBTQ pride and Black Lives Matter flags. Opposition to the move has led the board to reconsider the ban, according to local media reports. Newberg is about 20 miles (30 km) southwest of Portland.

In addition, a Newberg High School student last week was found to have participated in a national Snapchat group entitled "Slave Trade" that joked about auctioning Black classmates as slaves, the Graphic reported, citing screenshots of the posts and reports from classmates.

The chat included other racist, homophobic and violent language, the Graphic said.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Peter Cooney)