To the Marblehead School Committee:
As a result of the recent situation with the Black Lives Matter flag at the Marblehead High School, the members of the Executive Committee of the Marblehead Racial Justice Team (MRJT) are writing to respectfully request you create a policy that acknowledges and allows symbols of affirmation and acceptance, including the Black Lives Matter flag.
Displaying the Black Lives Matter symbol is positively correlated to black student success; the pride flag is linked to both academic and SEL success for LGBTQIA students.
A quick search of how other districts in various states, who have enacted policies to ban or severely restrict symbols, reveals negative outcomes. Districts that have attempted policies similar to the ones discussed by your Policy Subcommittee were intended to avoid controversy. Instead, bans increase controversy. The ACLU has filed lawsuits claiming the breach of free speech when symbols have been banned. Furthermore, it has been difficult to draw the line at flags without also including posters, flyers, pins, clothing, banners, mascots, chants, advertising and the numerous other means that humans communicate symbolically.
Because no clear policy can be articulated about what kind of speech is categorically disallowed, confusion and unconstitutionality is practically inevitable. The upshot has been recall elections and disrupted school years. We do not wish to see this happen.
Your task to determine a sensible policy that embraces marginalized members of your student body is surely difficult. We wish to see you successfully navigate a fair and equitable procedure to a sensible conclusion. The process may include harsh words and struggle; already we have witnessed vandalism of the flag in question. Nevertheless, we trust that you have the skills to determine how we might fairly judge flags and other symbols for admission in the schools. That process could involve a public feedback mechanism, a committee deliberation and recommendation, and the superintendent’s final say.
What is needed is clear to us:
- Transparency about the process
- Protection for those who seek and deserve it
- Conversation and deeper engagement
- Empowerment of students to lead in cultivating and nurturing the values of their
Members of the MRJT Executive Committee:
Pastor James Bixby
Kristin duBay Horton