A group of South Whidbey residents are calling for the removal of a Black Lives Matter banner put in place by South Whidbey School District officials.
The sign is currently hanging on the tennis court fences at the South Whidbey High School.
The banner has hung on the fence since July 28. South Whidbey Schools Superintendent Jo Moccia said Joe Menthe of Feather & Fox Print Co. in Langley provided the banner at no cost to the school district.
It represents “our vision statement that every South Whidbey student is a lifelong learner who is multiculturally engaged, literate and an active community member able to meet the challenges of a global society,” Moccia said in an email to the South Whidbey Record.
Clinton resident Rufus Rose expressed his disapproval of the BLM banner in a recent email to the school board, saying he felt “increasingly disturbed” by its display “in light of the increasing riots, personal injuries, considerable property damage nationwide, and the several homicides related to those riots.”
Rose is a member of the Old Goats-Fully Informed Voters, a conservative group that has met on South Whidbey for many years.
“There is no attendant reference to non-violent behavior, or evidence of multivariant analysis of the inequity causes that stimulated the posting of the banner,” Rose wrote on Sept. 3. “I worry that continued display of the BLM banner is increasing inappropriate bias rather than decreasing it.”
“That is not a desired outcome,” he wrote.
He added that the education of the community’s youth should result in “the thorough and balanced understanding of the many causes and effects of inequities in human life in effort and outcomes.”
Freeland residents Rod and Carol Mourant voiced agreement with Rose’s statement, referring to the banner’s presence as “most inappropriate.”
Superintendent Moccia responded that the Federal Office of Special Counsel has determined that expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement is neither partisan nor political.
“The district has been directed by the board to focus on equity, diversity and inclusion,” Moccia replied in response to the email from Rose.
“We are working to be an anti-racist organization,” she added.
South Whidbey High School student Jackson Murphy started a petition in June for Black history and hate speech education in the school district.
Moccia acknowledged his petition during the June 24 board meeting and requested the school board’s direction on beginning an equity and inclusion policy.
At the same meeting, the question was also raised as to whether the district would put up the donated BLM banner.
“The board had no objection,” Moccia said in an email to the South Whidbey Record. “It does not require a board vote to place banners or posters.”
The school board adopted the equity and inclusion policy on Aug. 26, which calls for training, evaluation of curriculum and hiring and recruitment of a diverse workforce.