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Teachers sue over ‘political’ image ban in schools

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 5, 2021

Associated Press

NEWBERG, Ore. — The teachers union in Newberg, Oregon, has filed a lawsuit over a policy passed narrowly by its school board, limiting what kinds of images or signs school employees can display on campus.

The “Ensuring Safe Environments To Learn” policy bars school employees from displaying images “relating to a political, quasi-political, or controversial topic.” The lawsuit was filed Wednesday.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports the Newberg policy has been a lightning rod for controversy, with the ACLU, Democrats in the Oregon Legislature and the State Board of Education all issuing statements against it. The policy, backed by a four-member majority of the Newberg school board, started out as a directive to remove signs and posters showing support for Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ Pride.

In its 18-page complaint, the Newberg Education Association argues the policy violates two amendments of the U.S. Constitution: the first amendment protecting free speech, and the fourteenth amendment guaranteeing equal protection.

The suit also argues the Newberg policy violates Article I, Section 20 of the Oregon Constitution which protects, “against vague laws that confer unbridled discretion, because such discretion creates the potential for unequal application of the law.” And, the teachers’ suit contends the Newberg policy “unreasonably discriminates against plaintiffs on the basis of the content of their speech” in violation of the Oregon Constitution, Article I, Section 8.

The union is calling for the Yamhill County circuit court to block the Newberg School District from enforcing the policy.

The school district said it would not comment on pending litigation.

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