An Oregon school district has condemned the actions of students who participated in an online slave auction ahead of a meeting where the current ban on Black Lives Matter and Pride flags was going to be revisited.
The Newberg School District found out that some students were participating in the virtual “slave trade” on Friday.
In a letter sent to parents on Tuesday, Sept. 14, the district said, “We are deeply dismayed that this behavior and activity was exhibited by someone from our community. We condemn actions such as these which represent the antithesis of what we believe and where we stand as a Newberg Nation family.”
In the Snapchat group chat, students used photos of students and racist slurs and joked about how much they’d pay for their Black classmates. The chat first popped up in Michigan late last year and has also surfaced in Texas. But on Friday, others reported one student’s use of the chat.
“Newberg High School became aware of a very serious and inappropriate incident on social media in which one of our students took part in a snapchat group termed “slave trade” and used photos of other Newberg High School students in the group,” the district’s statement said.
“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 KGW news. “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.”
Screenshots posted on Instagram by a user named @royceduey show a discussion of students’ private lives and the prices other students would pay for them. Screenshots show student comments such as “All Blacks should die” and “Let’s have another Holocaust.”
The district thanked those who reported the chat and said an investigation remains ongoing and will follow the board policy as it relates to harassment, bullying and potential disciplinary actions.
The school district had previously banned political symbols, including Black Lives Matter and Pride flags, in August.
“As a school board, it’s our job to make decisions that are going to be there for every single kid at Newberg High School, not just the kids that are represented in just one group — it has to be all kids,” Board chair Dave Brown said at the time.
However, students, parents, local officials and the ACLU have criticized the controversial ban and promised to take the district to court. The district revisted the ban and took public comments at a meeting on Tuesday evening.
One father said about the Black Lives Matter flag during the meeting, “It’s certainly not a symbol of love, to those of us that have members of our family in law enforcement,” KXL reported.
But a mother disagreed, and cited student participation in the Snapchat slave auction, calling it: “A clear illustration of the racism and discrimination that plagues this community.” Board members are taking a second look at the ban after passing it with a 4-to-3 vote last month.