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Citing racism and interference, O’Rourke departs 4J School Board

 Exterior of metal-sided building with 4J school logo.
Brian Bull
Exterior of the 4J administration offices in Eugene.

A controversial and outspoken member of the 4J School Board resigned over the weekend.

In a Facebook post, Laural O’Rourke announced that she sent her resignation letter Saturday to other 4J board members. In the letter, she said it was a “terrifying experience” as a Black woman, and accused the board of restricting or interrupting her participation in meetings. Last fall she filed a formal complaint against two members, alleging racial discrimination and harassment.

Laural O'Rourke on Zoom channel.
4J YouTube account
Laural O'Rourke speaks during a March 15, 2023 4J School Board meeting.

O’Rourke herself has been called disruptive and inflammatory. A recall effort was launched in February after she delayed recognition of the Sheldon High School volleyball team’s state championship win to argue over procedural matters. The recall petition was eventually withdrawn, and O’Rourke continued to accuse her fellow board members of racism.

O’Rourke did not respond to a request for comment on her resignation and future plans. A 4J spokesperson acknowledged receipt of the resignation letter, and said the board will need to officially declare the position vacant and work on appointing a new member.

O’Rourke was elected to the 4J board in 2021, succeeding longtime member Anne Marie Levis, who endorsed her. O’Rourke cited the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement as inspirations for her candidacy.

News of O’Rourke’s resignation, which was first reported by KEZI, brought mixed responses on social media. A number of commenters praised her courage and outspoken advocacy for BIPOC and special education students. Others said O’Rourke generated drama and lacked professionalism on the board.

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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