CUSD Against Racism Responds to BLM Poster Banning

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Ella Villar

The student group CUSDAgainstRacism, made the subject of BLM posters on campus a prominent part of the public comment portion of the last board meeting.

Ella Villar, Co Editor-in-Chief

Upon hearing allegations about the banning of Black Lives Matter merchandise on a school campus, CUSD Against Racism decided to take action and made their voices heard at the October 21 board meeting.

The meeting agenda did not include an item about the ban, but the students and alumni made the subject a prominent matter of the meeting during public comment.

SJHHS alumni Solei Sarmiento was the first to speak on the matter. “Although the board has passed resolutions denouncing racism, we still do not find this resolution adequate. For it does not proclaim that Black Lives Matter. Nor does it recognize the previous injustices that students of color have faced within the district,” said Sarmiento.

The organization called out the district for never directly stating that Black Lives Matter even when other districts have

“We are waiting for a proactive district. A district that does not have to be told or encouraged by its students to do the right thing. We are tired of having to come to these board meetings to tell you to have the courage to use your voice and to unapologetically recognize and support students of color by proclaiming that Black Lives Matter,” said Sarmiento.

Another student from SCHS, senior Riya Kheptarpal, spoke on the issue as well, “Black Lives Matter posters, masks, and other merchandise serve as a way for staff to let Black, indigenous, and people of color know that their classrooms are safe places for students from all backgrounds.”

“Saying Black Lives Matter is not political, it is a matter of affirming basic human rights,” said Kheptarpal. The district’s lack of direct response to the Black Lives Matter movement denies students of color from truly feeling protected by their trustees, according to Kheptarpal.

The banning and removal of Black Lives Matter merchandise, to which the speakers were responding, allegedly resulted from a situation in which a mental health counselor had a BLM poster on the wall of their room.

A message stating CUSD can prohibit employees from displaying political merchandise or messages was sent out to school principals earlier in the year, according to the student group CUSDAgainstRacism.

Black Lives Matter posters, masks, and other merchandise serve as a way for staff to let Black, indigenous, and people of color know that their classrooms are safe places for students from all backgrounds”

— Kheptarpal

The speakers pointed out that the district was taking the Black Lives Matter movement and interpreting it as a political issue. They held that Black Lives Matter is not a matter of politics, it is a matter of human rights and equality.

“The display of items containing the Black Lives Matter message is not a method of discrimination or increasing the value of one particular group over another. It advocates for the opposite,” said Kheptarpal. “Black Lives Matter is a symbol of equality, inclusion, and celebration of people from all backgrounds and all walks of life.”

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel published a memorandum in July clarifying its position that BLM is not a political movement, but a social one.

When specifically addressing the banning of Black Lives Matter merchandise, board members explained how they have not said that BLM posters are not allowed, they just addressed one poster that was inconsistent with their policy.

“If students want to wear something, that is something they can wear as long as it is not disruptive,” said trustee Patricia Holloway.

The trustee’s response to the comments emphasized how they are trying to remain consistent with board policy 1325 and 4135 when it comes to allowing political and non-instructional posters to be displayed on campus.

“The board is also committed that the schools are free from discrimination,” said Holloway. “[CUSD Against Racism] is right. We still have work to do with our students, with our community, our teachers, admin and so forth.”