(New York, NY) — After moving to ban LGBTQ+ and Black Lives Matter symbols, a school district in Oregon is now in the midst of developing a policy to ban all political slogans. PEN America today urged the Newberg School District to reverse its decision, calling it deeply dismissive to the free speech rights of students and other members of the Newberg community.

“The Newberg school board’s ban on the Pride and Black Lives Matter symbols tramples on the free speech rights of Newberg students and appears to squarely violate both the First Amendment and Article I of the Oregon Constitution,” said Nicholas Perez, manager of free expression and education at PEN America. “The board’s decision to censor slogans of support for LGBTQ+ and Black students specifically sends an alarming signal that these students are unwelcome in their own schools. Similarly, the board’s intended policy against any political symbols will send the message to its students that their participation in the country’s politics is something to be discouraged—a damaging message to send to the next generation of citizens. PEN America believes that both the current ban and the intended new policy are deeply misguided, and asks the board to immediately reconsider.”

On August 10, the seven-member board of Newberg School District directed its superintendent to immediately enact a ban on any Pride symbols or Black Lives Matter symbols appearing on school property, as well as any other “political signs or symbols other than the American or Oregon state flags.” That same day, the board also directed its policy committee to draft a policy formalizing the ban. On September 1, The school board refused to rescind the ban against Pride and Black Lives Matter symbols, despite being informed by the supervisor, Joe Morelock, that lawyers for the district had advised him that such a ban was illegal. The board’s policy committee is expected to produce a new policy later this month.