On a 4-3 vote, members of an Oregon school board decided to prohibit signs, flags, and clothing with political messages on district property. The Newberg board members didn't specify what they consider "political," but community members who spoke at the meeting brought up pride flags and Black Lives Matter signs, NBC reports. One supporter on the board said the idea is to "get political symbols and divisive symbols out of our schools so we can focus on the already difficult task of educating our students in the core subjects." Another member didn't see the connection, pointing out that state districts with poor academic records lack efforts on "anything to do with equity," while Oregon's Top 5 districts have diversity coordinators and diversity statements. "This feels so draconian ... this feels so anti-everything," Brandy Penner said, "anti-free speech, anti-free expression, anti-safety."
A parent told the board that safety is a real issue. "Black students and other kids of color are under attack in Newberg schools," Tai Harden-Moore said. "I know this to be true because my son was called a n***** at school." A sign, or a pride flag, on display at school can help students feel they belong, Harden-Moore said, per KGW. "Research shows an affirming school environment improves behavioral, academic and mental health outcomes for all students," Caitlin Collins told the meeting. The superintendent said the measure will have to be reviewed by district lawyers before it can be enforced. The board also plans to come up with "replacement language" for the state's policy against racism. And at a meeting later this month, members want to reconsider Oregon's Every Student Belongs policy, which is intended to keep schools inclusive and safe, prohibiting hate symbols such as swastikas and confederate flags. (Read more Black Lives Matter stories.)