Oregon School District Bans Talk Shows, Rap Music on Buses

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Pixabay, Creative Commons)

A public school district in Oregon has received negative feedback after a memorandum was distributed stating that bus drivers could no longer listen to talk-show programs, religious stations or stations that play rap music while students are in the vehicle.

The directive was sent to drivers in March by Portland Public Schools’ transportation director Teri Brady, who suggested that drivers instead listen to country, pop, or jazz music.

“This list excludes any radio stations that may be in any way offensive to any student riding a PPS bus, either a District or any contract vehicle,” it states, according to the Oregonian. “The stations that are deemed inappropriate include any religious, rap music or talk show programs.”

However, response to the memo from parents and students had been largely negative, referring to the ban as an “Archie Bunker-type letter,” that was “overtly racist” and “unacceptable.”  As a result, the district said it is now reconsidering its decision, writes Alexandra Suarez for The International Business Times.

In a statement, district spokeswoman Courtney Westling apologized for the way the memo was communicated.  Westling said the decision was made in an effort to limit the amount of exposure students received toward religious teachings, profanity, and violent lyrics.  She added that the transportation department would be sending out a revised directive as soon as possible that would be inclusive of different genres of music.

Parent Colleen Ryan-Onken, responsible for the circulation of the memo on social media last week, said that the ban left out two major communities.

“When you outlaw a kind of music that is very indicative of the modern culture of one group of people you’re basically saying that they’re not welcome,” she said. “Those of us in the district, living in diverse communities in Portland, understand the racial equity stuff going on is entirely for the cameras. There is no real meat behind it.”

Ryan-Onken went on to suggest that rap music is not any more offensive than other types of music that the district does allow.  She offered country music as an example, saying that it discusses topics such as date rape, liquor, and drugs.

Meanwhile, parent Kim Sordyl looked to the school board for help after viewing the letter.  She said that the district had spent millions on equity training for both students and staff members in an effort to make the atmosphere at schools more inclusive and nondiscriminatory.  She added that the ban shows the training to have wasted taxpayer dollars, adding that it is a racist move that bans only one type of music it deems to be offensive.

Sordyl went on to say that because rap music is more popular among African Americans and other minority groups, banning the genre while allowing other genres such as country music is racist, writes Lindsey Bever for The Washington Post.

According to enrollment records for the 2015-16 school year, there are currently more than 49,000 students enrolled in the Portland Public Schools district between prekindergarten and the 12th grade.  Of this group, over 55% are white, 16% are Hispanic, and 10% are African American.