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In Eugene School, Controversy Over Torn Down Posters Welcoming Immigrants

4-J School District

Eugene school officials say they’re still working with police on the possibly unlawful removal of immigrant-friendly posters in a grade school. KLCC’s Brian Bull reports.

The top of the posters read “IMMIGRANTS WELCOME” – and were hung in hallways and classrooms at River Road /El Camino del Rio Elementary.  4-J officials say they believe a contractor took them all down over winter break. The suspect shared photos of the posters on Facebook, prompting accusations of student indoctrination from his friends. The post has since been removed and the contractor barred from the school.

Credit 4-J School District
River Road/El Camino del Rio Elementary.

“It wasn’t the 'IMMIGRANTS WELCOME', it was what was below that, that spoke about the border wall and that was where it gets a bit tricky with the politics of it all,” says 4-J District Superintendent Gustavo Balderas.

Balderas says some teachers have since replaced the original posters, as the district discusses its policies with educators.

“As of right now, we welcome any immigrant posters that are up anywhere across the district. It’s making sure that again we use language that does not politicize this statement.  It, this…it’s not a political statement, it’s “immigrants welcome”, we welcome all students.”

"Schools don’t care what your immigration status is, what schools are there for is to educate students and to make students feel welcome," says Kristidel McGregor.  She has children who go to the bilingual school.

She also wrote an op-ed column for the Register-Guard when she thought the school agreed to leave the posters off the walls for good.  She says she’s pleased now with the 4-J District’s response, but figures with changing demographics, more incidents are ahead.

“I think this particular incident may perhaps be over, but it’s just a smaller incident in a much larger issue," McGregor tells KLCC. "Schools have hit a turning point.  Our schools in the United States are no longer majority white, I think we’re seeing some of the pushback on that.”

McGregor says she’s gotten mostly positive feedback on her column, though she’s gotten hate mail, too.

As to what charges may come from tearing the posters down, Superintendent Balderas says it could be considered vandalism.

Copyright 2017, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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