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By The Skanner News | The Skanner News
Published: 11 January 2006

Calling a proposal requiring Jefferson High School students to wear uniforms and be separated by sexes "illegal and racist," the Oregon Assembly for Black Affairs board has voted to oppose the proposal.

The board voted against the proposal recommended by Portland Public Schools Superintendent Vicki Phillips and a district "design team" at a meeting last Saturday

The proposal would divide Jefferson into three academies; one of those academies would be a young men's leadership academy and the other two would be co-ed. Harriet Tubman Middle School would become a young women's leadership academy for students in the seventh-through-12th grade. Students at both schools would be required to wear uniform dress, consisting of white or navy shirts or polo shirts tucked into white, navy, grey or black pants or skirts.

"Jefferson High School is a public school in a district in Oregon. It is not a parochial school or a private school. Also it is not a charter school," said a statement issued by the board.

The board noted that, in the 1990s, Jefferson, one of 10 high schools in the Portland Public School District, became known as a "majority Black school" because a majority of the students were Black.

"It is the only high school in the PPS District that is being targeted to require the students to wear uniforms and to require the students to be separated by sexes," the board statement said.

The board cited Oregon law that prohibits discrimination in public elementary and secondary schools and higher education programs or in interschool activities that receive state funds. Oregon law also requires "equal and open access and educational opportunities for all students in the state regardless of their linguistic background, culture, race, gender, capability or geographical location," the board noted.

Since only one school cluster would be affected by the proposal, the board said, the recommendations violate Oregon laws.

"Since Jefferson is viewed in the eyes of many as a "Black School,"  these proposals are viewed as being racial," the statement added. "These proposals will not encourage the White students and other racial group students to attend Jefferson High School."

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