Normally you would expect a public high school to be an inclusive place, given the fact that many of them serve diverse communities. But apparently in one Maryland county, sending a message of inclusion is considered a message of opposition to Donald Trump.
Last week teachers at Westminster High School were told that they had to remove posters like the following one that some of them had hung in their classrooms.
Yes, Shepard Fairey, the artist who created that poster and others like it that feature Latina and African-American women, said his works are a reference to people who feel attacked by Donald Trump. But he never said the posters were, per se, “anti-Trump.” What he did say was this: “We felt the phrase ‘We the People’ is pretty important. It means everyone.” He added that he wanted the posters to reinforce “the idea of the melting pot and inclusion.”
Initially, teachers argued that the posters were speaking out about diversity, and the school administration allowed them to keep them up. But after administrators did some research and learned that the posters were designed for protests of Trump’s inauguration, teachers were forced to take them down. On Wednesday, the Carroll County School Board spoke out in support of the decision.
Carroll County Public Schools spokeswoman Carey Gaddis said that political posters are allowed if they are part of the curriculum, but teachers would have to show both sides. That’s an interesting comment in the case of these posters, which are not explicitly political. What would be the opposing side to a poster that says the American people are greater than fear?
Some Westminster students are fighting back against the decision, and have planned to protest it. When 2012 alumna Sarah Wack heard the story from her younger brother who attends the school and spoke to some of the students, she started a Go Fund Me page to raise money so students could have the images from the banned posters printed on t-shirts. Wack set a goal of $4,000 for her campaign, and in less than four days she had collected over $5,000. Students who wish to participate will wear the t-shirts to school on Wednesday, March 1.
Wack explained the circumstances and the reason for the fundraiser on the GoFundMe page:
Over the past few days, it has come to our attention that WHS teachers have been banned from posting a particular artist’s work in their classrooms. These banned images celebrate multiculturalism and encourage critical thinking about what it means to be an American today. Making classrooms feel safer for minority students has unfortunately been mistaken for partisan speech in the current political environment.
Celebrating diversity in our community is not a political statement. We trust our CCPS teachers to promote an environment in our schools where all students feel safe and encouraged.
Westminster students decided that they would wear shirts with the “banned” poster image to show solidarity with their classmates and respected teachers. We as a community of alumni, parents, and friends can do our part by supporting them financially. The funds raised in this campaign will go directly to defraying costs for shirts to hand out to WHS students. The artist behind this beautiful work did not want anyone to profit from his work, so we will buy as many shirts to distribute as funds will allow.
If teachers cannot use their classrooms to teach tolerance and acceptance, students can stand in solidarity instead.
What an amazing America we now live in, where a message of inclusion that doesn’t explicitly refer to or mention a politician or political party is considered a “partisan statement.” If school officials consider these posters partisan, it would be very interesting to hear them explain what they think is the “partisan” counter-argument to love and inclusion.
Here’s a report on the issue from Baltimore’s WJZ: