Story at a glance
- Students from the Scarborough Public Schools District organized a protest after the district superintendent told staff not to wear any messaging deemed controversial.
- This reignites the debate of how to teach civil rights movements and Black Lives Matter in the classroom.
A group of students in Maine are protesting after the district superintendent released a memo instructing staff to not display any “controversial” messaging ahead of Election Day, including anything related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
CNN reports that on Monday, the Scarborough Public Schools District sent an email to district staff on Monday instructing them not to wear any clothing or accessories with politically-laden phrases.
Slogans banned included various campaign slogans from both President Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as Democratic challengers Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Phrases referencing social movements, including both "White Lives Matter" and "Black Lives Matter,” were also prohibited.
When students learned of the email, a cohort at Scarborough High School protested on Tuesday outside of the town municipal building before school.
Signs included messages such as “"Racism Is Still Taking Lives" and "Why Is Demanding Equality Controversial." Standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, many students also took a knee to represent the death of George Floyd, who was asphyxiated at the hands of police in May.
Scarborough High School students protest staff being told not to wear or display controversial slogans https://t.co/u5wlsJk4vo— NEWS CENTER Maine (@newscentermaine) October 27, 2020
Scarborough Superintendent Sanford J. Prince IV issued a formal apology on Tuesday
“I honestly have to say it’s a learning opportunity, and I respect that they [students] have taken a stand,” he said.
“As I now reflect on a communication that was shared by our curriculum director to staff yesterday, I understand that the reference to the phrase ‘Black Lives Matter’ was offensive to many people who read the memo," Prince wrote in another statement. "Please know that inclusion of that phrase was not at all intended to be a statement to make any member of the community feel less valued in any way and we are deeply apologetic for that."
It is not clear if the policy has been changed following student protests.
The question of how to introduce civil justice movements in school curriculums and environments has proved difficult to answer. While programs exist to educate students on the mission of Black Lives Matter and systemic racism, such as BLM In School, some critics have protested introducing the material in a classroom.
Earlier in October, a group of parents protested against teaching children about the Black Lives Matter movement.
"You don't get to have an opinion as a teacher. You're supposed to be non-partisan. That's what we pay you for, we don't pay you for your opinions," Kristen Brooks, a member of the Concerned Parents group, told WFLA.
Similarly, the Lakeville school district in Minnesota struck a debate following its ban on Black Lives Matter signs and slogans.