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An Elementary School Staff Member Protested a Vaccine Mandate by Portraying Rosa Parks in Blackface and WOW I’ve Had My Fill of People Today


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Ryan Clarke of The Newberg Graphic, a local paper in Newberg, Oregon, reported a story about a staff member at Mabel Rush Elementary School who decided to protest the school’s vaccine mandate.

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By dressing as Rosa Parks.

Which included doing blackface.




Clarke was able to get additional information from another staff member who revealed that the, and I can’t believe I’m writing this, blackface Rosa Parks anti-vaxxer was a special education assistant named Lauren Pefferle. “The concerned staff member, who requested anonymity for this story, said Pefferle explained that she intended to look like Rosa Parks and have her actions serve as a protest of a mandate requiring school district employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Pefferle was soon removed from school grounds and placed on administrative leave, according to a district statement.”

The statement from the school can be seen in Clarke’s tweet about the story.

I’m trying to think of a way to convey how I feel about all of this, but I gotta admit, it’s difficult to pick a starting point. This is one of those stories that goes from being completely absurd to being kinda depressing when you realize that yes, there are people out there who believe that the fight for racial equality is the same as not getting a vaccine, so much so that they do something outrageously racist to get their point across, I guess?!

Then you get to the part where, apparently, this is just one of several racially charged incidents in the school district.

The Blackface incident comes amid a string of news-making incidents in the school district related to race and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, a Newberg High School student was connected to a racist ‘slave trade’ Snapchat group, resulting in a student-led protest during a sporting event in solidarity with Newberg’s Black students; and a controversial decision by the school board has led to a months-long battle to ban Black Lives Matter flags, Pride displays and other perceived “political” symbols.

Please understand that the following gif react is the only way my brain can process all of this. I truly am just a tired Black woman today.


Because it’s one thing to see a story about a blackface anti-vaxx Rosa Parks cosplayer.

But to see that combined with the knowledge of this being a school district with such gems as “student participates in racist slave trade Snapchat group” and “folks are trying to ban BLM and Pride flags” makes it even more exhausting. It implies that this staff member probably thought they were in the right, not just because of the misguided comparison to segregation and vaccination, but because they work in a school district with ongoing racist incidents.

Not to mention the constant attempts to ban our history.

Clarke goes in to quote Tai Harden-Moore, a Black woman and former candidate for school board who has children in the school district. “This makes sense only because we have our county commissioner, Mary Starrett, who drew that line between vaccine mandates and Jim Crow,” Harden-Moore said. “That was only a couple months ago. Our county leadership is saying basic public health measures are akin to Jim Crow. There is a line between our political leadership and something like this happening. Our leadership matters.”

Superintendent Joe Morelock added, “I am horrified, angry, and ashamed this has happened, as is nearly every other staff member. This goes against everything I and the vast majority of NSD staff have believed and it is unfathomably offensive.”

I expected pushback against the vaccine, so much so that anti-vaxxers think they’re taking some kind of heroic stand against it, and I have mental guards at the ready for potential bursts of racism ranging from outlandish to Karen, but a combination of the two with a bonus upgrade of blackface is… a lot to take in.


Exactly that.

And I will always feel some kinda way knowing that someone actually does need to hear that.

(via Ryan Clarke of The Newberg Graphic, image: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

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Briana Lawrence
Briana (she/her - bisexual) is trying her best to cosplay as a responsible adult. Her writing tends to focus on the importance of representation, whether it’s through her multiple book series or the pieces she writes. After de-transforming from her magical girl state, she indulges in an ever-growing pile of manga, marathons too much anime, and dedicates an embarrassing amount of time to her Animal Crossing pumpkin patch (it's Halloween forever, deal with it Nook)

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