Portland Public Schools officials are rethinking a district ban on rap music on buses after allegations of racism.
The district had banished hip-hop from its buses, deeming the genre "inappropriate."
Teri Brady, senior director of transportation at Portland Public Schools, sent a directive to bus drivers in March forbidding "religious, rap music, or talk show programs." The memo included a list of acceptable stations, broken down into three genres: pop, country and jazz.
Parent Colleen Ryan-Onken obtained a copy and it circulated in August among outraged parents, prompting the district to walk back the directive in statements released Wednesday.
Ryan-Onken, who is white, said the memo "kind of fell into my lap." And when she read it, she was livid.
"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."
Westling said the district had received several complaints regarding the radio stations that were played on buses.
"I think it's overtly racist and leaves out two of our major communities in our music choices," said Ryan-Onken, who has a senior at Roosevelt High School.
Ryan-Onken said not only is hip-hop music written off as "inappropriate" but Latin music also isn't even 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."
Ryan-Onken said the concern can't be swearing, as those words would be edited out on commercial radio.
"Country music is offensive. It's about date rape, liquor and drugs — all kinds of things!" Ryan-Onken said. "It's just as offensive as rap music can be."