Progessive Oregon school board members push plan to fly BLM and pride flags alongside Old Glory

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An Oregon school board tabled a vote on flying Black Lives Matter, “progressive pride” and POW/MIA flags alongside Old Glory at its facilities and within each classroom earlier this month after a fiery meeting that saw young progressive members clash with the rest of the board.

Board member Robyn Stowers berated members who wanted to send the proposal to the Oregon School Boards Association for legal review, although they eventually prevailed.

“You’re creating a roadblock in a racist system that does not reaffirm our students’ diversity,” she said. “Black Lives Matter, our progressive pride flag, these are our students identities.”

At one point, board member Kris Howatt, who had supported adding the POW/MIA flag, said sending the policy proposal to the OSBA is standard procedure.

“If you don’t like the law, then change the law,” she said.

“The law is White supremacist,” Stowers shot back, knocking the idea that the radical proposal should see review from an outside authority before being forced on teachers, students, parents and everyone else in the community. “The law does not represent every culture.”

At another point, fellow member Amanda Orozco-Beach said she wanted to dissuade further public comment on this issue.

“I don’t want to hear, like, any arguments or anything,” she said. “Because that’s just ugly.”

The move would have revised standing policy that requires the state flag to fly with the Stars and Stripes.

The Gresham-Barlow School Board also voted to update its policies to require students receive “instruction on native land acknowledgements and have the opportunity to recite it at least once each week.”

And students will be required to learn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem, in addition to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Video of the meeting is available on the district’s website. Board members initially aimed to push through the policy changes as part of a consent agenda along with a bunch of other votes considered “trivial,” but were blocked when one member asked for further discussion on that issue.

Several parents offered public comments on the proposal – including Eric Moffat, who said the flag gesture would mean more if students were allowed to return to class for in-person learning and the district required more diligent tracking of class attendance.

“It is ludicrous to talk about giving students representation in place of belonging when the policy sends the message that education is optional, that’s it’s no big deal to skip out,” he said. “Our students need real in-person contact with adults in the educational setting every school day if there is any hope of overcoming the myriad of barriers they face on a daily basis…”

“In the end, it does not matter how many flags, banners and welcome posters a house has inside if the doors to the house are locked,” he said.

Another parent, Luke Nelson, said the idea of the saying Black Lives Matter was an important one, but noted that the flags are also tied to a political organization of the same name that actively calls for defunding the police and other far-left goals – and objected to them on that basis.

“The simple truth, this is a political matter, and one that has the potential to stoke even more division than we already have in our public schools, where we represent families of vastly diverse political backgrounds,” he said. “If individual families or communities want to take political stands for their personal beliefs, we believe that they should and we will support them all the way through it. But implementing a policy to support any political organization is reckless and not the purpose of our public schools.”

While the board voted to approve the changes, the district’s website did not yet reflect them as of Wednesday evening.

The district could not immediately be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, district superintendent A. Katrise Perera told the board in March she would be leaving at the end of June to take a superintendent job at another district in Texas.

The board’s next public work session is Thursday.

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