Today: School Committee policy group to discuss flags after BLM banner was removed, returned

Wednesday update: The School Committee’s policy sub-group will now discuss flag displays at virtual meeting this Friday, Oct. 27, at noon. There is public comment on the agenda. For more information and a link, click HERE.


Tuesday morning, acting Superintendent Michelle Cresta said the Black Lives Matter banner at Marblehead High School was “removed by an unauthorized individual. That matter is the subject of an on-going investigation.”

The BLM flag is back in the MHS cafeteria after being removed by an ‘unauthorized individual.’ COURTESY PHOTO

The flag disappeared early last week, and reappeared hanging in the MHS cafeteria on Monday, Oct. 23.

“I was astonished that someone would even take the BLM flag down,” said Shakayla Baxter, a student of color at MHS. “Doing it on purpose or not, it’s still upsetting. As a student of color at Marblehead High, seeing that flag up makes me feel like there is at least one person in the school that cares about students that look like me. It makes students of color feel seen in a town that’s predominantly Caucasian.”

Baxter said there was no communication from school leaders about the flag.

“Now that it’s back up I just wonder why it was taken down in the first place,” Baxter asked. “Was someone held accountable for it?” 

The Marblehead Racial Justice Team offered to pay to replace the BLM banner but was not contacted.

“We applaud it going back up and applaud the administration for the right move,” said Rev. Jim Bixby of the Clifton Lutheran Church, who also sits on the MRJT.

“I do want to put a caveat in there about the fact that the damage has been done,” he added. “It’s fair if people feel on edge about something like this happening. We need to do more to reassure people that their rights are secure — that they matter.”

Cresta told the Current that the district does not have a policy regarding flags displayed in or outside school buildings.

“I have made a request to the School Committee to take up the matter of discussing a policy regarding the display of flags,” she said.

In the spring of 2021, a local woman started a petition to remove the flag, saying that BLM supports Palestinians and Hamas.

Some BLM activists — unaffiliated with the national group — have shown support for the Palestinian cause and even Hamas in the past. The Anti-Defamation League points out on its website, “It is important to note that Black Lives Matter chapters are run independently from the national Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, and many are completely unaffiliated. The Black Lives Matter national organization has not yet commented on the current Israel-Hamas war.”

When the flag disappeared, Bixby said, “We are aware that there was conversation before about how the flag could be interpreted. We don’t believe in any way that it can or should be construed to represent antisemitism.”

A local rabbi, social justice activists and then-superintendent John Buckey said the banner should stay.

Bixby emphasized that the BLM banner “is what it says, that Black lives matter. That message should remain.”

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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