PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A 2021 decision by the Newberg School District Board of Directors to ban all political signage, including Black Lives Matter signs and LGBTQ Pride flags from its schools, has been deemed unconstitutional by the Yamhill County Circuit Court.
American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon announced that on Sept. 23, the court concluded that the district’s policy violates Article I, Section 8 of the Oregon Constitution, which protects free expression, equal treatment under the law and ensures that laws are clear-cut.
The decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Oregon against the Newberg School District and board members David Brown, Brian Shannon, Trevor DeHart and Renee Powell. The suit was filed on behalf of school district employee Chelsea Shotts, who maintained a LGBTQ pride flag hanging in a Dundee Elementary School window in defiance of the board’s decision.
The flag resulted in ongoing internal conflict among the school’s educational leaders and the aforementioned board members, who ultimately voted to fire school Superintendent Joe Morelock without cause in December of 2021 after the school’s educational leaders determined that the flag wasn’t a “political, quasi-political or controversial display,” and therefore did not violate the board’s policy.
“To protect the rights of students and educators, we must fight discriminatory policies and practices and champion community safety in learning environments,” the ACLU of Oregon previously stated on its website. “The ACLU of Oregon is committed to defending student and educator rights in Newberg and across the state — because everyone deserves to show up to school and work free to be their authentic selves.”
ACLU of Oregon spokesperson Christina Nguyen told KOIN 6 that the nonprofit is declining to comment on the legal victory at this time. The organization Tweeted that it plans to share more information on the decision in the coming weeks. Prior to the court’s decision, ACLU of Oregon Legal Director Kelly Simon issued a strongly worded statement in response to the Newberg School District Board of Directors’ actions.
“Schools are legally obligated to make sure that Black and LGBTQ+ students and staff are welcomed,” Simon said. “State and federal law prohibit education providers from discriminating against students and employees based on race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The Board’s action sends a message to students and staff that Black and LGBTQ+ students are not to be cared for or celebrated in the district, their safety and security needs will not be met, and that the district is a hostile environment for them.”
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