FILE - Oregon School Bus

An Oregon school bus

(The Center Square) — The Confederate flag is the latest emblem to be designated as a hate symbol by Oregon's state education board this week.

The move is part of a policy crafted by the Oregon Department of Education dubbed “All Students Belong,” which also prohibits nooses and swastikas.

Effective immediately, the policy change requires Oregon school districts to craft standards in compliance with it by New Year's Day. ODE officials released a statement saying a comprehensive version of the policy will come out in the coming months.

ODE Director Colt Gill said that the decision lives up to state educators' responsibility to ensure all students feel safe and welcome.

“The noose, Confederate flag and swastika are being used to bully and harm students and staff, and this is particularly true for students of color,” Gill said. “Students must feel like they are safe and belong in their own schools if they are to learn, work and grow to their fullest potential.”

The policy reiterates Oregon law which bans “discrimination in any public elementary, secondary or community college education program or service [...] where the program, service, school or activity is financed” by taxpayer money.

The state board’s new temporary rule argues that any emblems recognized as hate symbols can create a disruptive "atmosphere of fear and intimidation" keeping students from a fulfilling learning experience.

A group of Sandy High School students started a petition in June calling on the Oregon Trail School District to ban Confederate flags, saying the flag is part of a larger culture of racism at the school. 

Oregon Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, announced she will introduce legislation next year to ensure all hate symbols are permanently banned under state law.

Helt, who sits on the state Board of Education as the designee of Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno, says state Reps. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, and David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, have her support.

“The Confederate flag is a symbol of treason, racism and white supremacy,” Helt said. “It has no place in Oregon.”

Staff Reporter

Tim Gruver is a politics and public policy reporter. He is a University of Washington alum and the recipient of the 2017 Pioneer News Award for Reporting. His work has appeared in Politico, the Kitsap Daily News, and the Northwest Asian Weekly.