CONTENT WARNING: The following information includes instances of racism and anti-LGBTQ+ language.
PORTLAND, OR — The ACLU of Oregon today released the following statements in response to the Yamhill County Circuit Court’s ruling in Shotts v. Newberg School District that the school district’s policy imposing content-based restrictions on displays violates Article I, section 8 of the Oregon Constitution. The court’s order prohibits the District from enforcing its policy.
Kelly Simon, legal director, ACLU of Oregon
“Yamhill County Circuit Court Judge ruling in Shotts v. Newberg School District affirms that public school staff remain free to celebrate the diverse identities of themselves, their students, and their colleagues.”
Chelsea Shotts, school staff, Newberg School District
“As a queer educator, I have firsthand experience in how harmful it is be forced into the shadows. This often leads to instilling a sense of shame and fear surrounding one's identity, which leads to negative mental and physical health outcomes. It is why there are incredibly high rates of suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. It is why I struggled with thoughts of suicide, and it is why I took a stand against the board’s policy.
Open celebration of queer identities through positive symbols of pride communicates to students and staff that we are free to be known and loved, that we are safe. Permitting only invisible love of certain types of people is no love at all; it is erasure of human beings.
School leaders should be focused on meeting students’ needs and resourcing our schools, not playing politics with people’s lives. My identity and the identities of my students are not political; we are people.
I am grateful that the courts are willing to support our right to celebrate our differences and hope that the case encourages people to be engaged in their local community, to vote, and to create spaces that value the lives of queer students and students of color.
And to the Newberg students, remember: I love you for exactly who you are and will always have your backs. Don’t let anybody steal your pride!”
In August 2021, four Newberg School Board members directed the development of a policy that would have the effect of banning Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ Pride signs. The Policy they crafted banned employees from displaying “political, quasi-political, or controversial” messages in all Newberg schools. The same four board members of the school board voted to adopt this ban on September 28, 2021.
Two days later, on September 30, 2021, an individual living in the Newberg School District area submitted a complaint claiming that Ms. Shotts’ rainbow heart display violated the Policy, referring to “what purports to be a gay pride poster displayed in what seems to be a classroom window at the Dundee Elementary School.”
In the lawsuit, we asked the court to enjoin enforcement of the Policy and find that the Policy violates Ms. Shotts’ rights under Article I, section 8, which protects free expression in Oregon. The lawsuit sought only declaratory and injunctive relief, Ms. Shotts did not ask for financial compensation.
About ACLU Oregon
The ACLU of Oregon is an affiliate of the national ACLU which has affiliates in 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. The ACLU of Oregon is a nonpartisan, nonprofit membership organization with more than 28,000 members statewide. The organization works in the courts, in the legislature, and in communities to defend and advance our civil liberties and civil rights under the U.S. and Oregon constitutions and the laws of the United States and Oregon.