Beaverton School District’s deputy superintendent Steve Phillips created a firestorm in one of Oregon’s most diverse school districts when he retweeted alarmist and false claims about “illegal aliens.”
The tweet said that immigrants kill thousands of Americans every year and are “more dangerous than assault rifles.” The original tweet was sent March 25 by the leader of a group that favors cracking down on illegal immigration.
Phillips’ retweet gained attention in just the last few days with outrage and pressure against Phillips and the Beaverton School District mounting seemingly by the hour.
Community members on Facebook fumed and vented. Middle school teacher and former head of the Beaverton teachers union Trisha Parks reached out to OPB as the retweet surfaced.
“Our schools are full of children that speak many languages and come from many other places,” Parks said in an email. “[Phillips] is not a good fit for our district and shouldn’t be in public education with his views.”
Before long, the opposition to Phillips started to organize. A group of 14 school board members of color from nearby school districts wrote to the Beaverton school board calling for action.
“At a time when English Language Learners experience stark inequities in educational outcomes, we simply cannot discount the harm that biased school administrators stand to inflict on immigrant and refugee families in the Beaverton School District,” the letter said.
Among its signatories were Rep. Diego Hernandez, D-Portland, and member of the Reynolds School Board, and Julie Esparza Brown on the board of Portland Public Schools.
Superintendent Don Grotting issued an apology Monday, in which he disavowed his deputy’s statement.
“The views are contrary to our deeply held values,” Grotting wrote. “We apologize for the hurt this has caused our staff, students and community.”
The Beaverton school board released its own statement Tuesday afternoon. It was an affirmation that immigrant families are an important part of the Beaverton school community and didn’t reference Phillips or the content of his social media message.
The district’s announcement of Phillips’ resignation came less than four hours later at 5:15 p.m. Tuesday. It didn’t include a direct statement from Phillips and was attributed to Superintendent Grotting.
“We are committed to ensuring all students have every opportunity to reach their potential,” Grotting said in the announcement of his deputy’s resignation.
“We are committed to restoring trust in our community.”
Phillips had stirred controversy earlier this year, when he sought to ban the book, “Stick” by Andrew Smith from middle school libraries. The young adult novel deals directly with sexual themes and features a gay main character.