Oregon school district scrutinized after memo ordered bus drivers to stop playing rap music

An Oregon school district has discussed reversing its ban on rap music on buses after allegations of racism.

The Oregonian reported Wednesday that Portland Public Schools had ordered its bus drivers to stop playing hip-hop music after it deemed rap “inappropriate.”

Teri Brady, the senior director of transportation in the district, sent a memo to bus drivers in March ordering them to stop playing “religious, rap music or talk show programs.” The only acceptable music to play was pop, country and jazz, according to The Oregonian.

The paper reported that a parent, Colleen Ryan-Onken, obtained a copy of the directive and began to send it around to parents this month. Parents’ outrage over the memo forced the district to walk back on their order.

“We regret the way this was communicated. Our intent is to limit student exposure to religious teachings, profanity and violent lyrics,” Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Courtney Westling said in a statement. “The transportation department will be revising its guidance to bus drivers shortly to be more inclusive of different genres of music.”

According to The Oregonian, Westling said the district had received numerous complaints over the type of music that was being played on buses.

However, Ryan-Onken wasn’t having any of it and slammed the district over the order.

“I think it’s overtly racist and leaves out two of our major communities in our music choices,” she said.

Ryan-Onken told the paper that hip-hop was deemed inappropriate, but Latin-type music wasn’t addressed.

“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,” Ryan-Onken 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.”

She also insisted that the directive couldn’t have been about the swearing because radio stations edit it that out and she added that country music could be just as offensive as rap music.

The Oregonian noted that Portland, a predominantly white city, has struggled in its relationship with the music genre.

In 2006, Portland police wondered if rap concerts were the cause of shootings, The Portland Mercury reported. Eight years later, police were reviewed after a rap concert was cut short.

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