PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland Public Schools is responding to criticism from parents after a district memo to bus drivers asking them not to play rap music became public.
“I was passed on the memo from a friend,” said parent Colleen Ryan. “My first reaction was this is really racist and somebody didn't check to make sure this is ok,” she said.
The district memo, which first went out to bus drivers in March, includes a list of approved radio stations to play on school buses. It also lists stations to exclude which the memo says might be “offensive” to students. The memo specifically mentions talk radio, religious stations and rap music, calling them “inappropriate.”
As first reported by Willamette Week, Ryan shared the memo with other parents. It reached Kim Sordyl, a Portland Public Schools parent who alerted the school board.
“Why would rap music be singled out as offensive and country music and pop music was not?” Sordyl asked.
Sordyl said she couldn’t believe that a school district that spends millions of dollars on equity training for its students and staff would allow the anti-rap music mandate.
“It appears to me this equity spending is just a big waste of taxpayer money when we've got somebody sending out Archie Bunker-type letters to school bus drivers,” said Sordyl.
Students outside Lincoln High School Wednesday afternoon were just as surprised.
“That seems really racist and culturist to me," said student Nic Speed. “It just doesn't make sense.”
“I feel like it's not fair,” added Henok Techest. “Play the clean version of the hip hop like what the radio does."
On Wednesday, Portland Public Schools released a statement about the memo.
"We regret the way this was communicated. Our intent is to limit student exposure to religious teachings, profanity and violent lyrics," said Portland Public Schools spokeswoman, Courtney Westling. "The transportation department will be revising its guidance to bus drivers shortly to be more inclusive of different genres of music."
Ryan said the response was a start, but fears the damage has already been done.
“It's telling one group of kids in our city that they're offensive, basically,” said Ryan. “That that group of people's music is offensive.”