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Black Lives Matter signs’ removal from Columbia Public Schools elicits complaints


Black Lives Matter signs in two Columbia Public School buildings were taken down after CPS parents sent several emails to the schools superintendent asking for their removal.

Parents expressed concerns in a Facebook group for CPS Accountability and Transparency.

After several parents sent complaints, the district removed the signs.

The BLM and Pride materials were removed from Smithton Middle School and Rock Bridge High School last week.

CoMo for Progress sent out a letter and petition to members of the Columbia Board of Education, CPS Chief Equity Officer Carla London and Superintendent Brian Yearwood outlining their concerns with the BLM and Pride materials being taken down.

"We wish to express that a large portion of our community does, in fact, support the display of these symbols, signs, and other items, which allow our scholars to feel welcome in our schools, clearly showing these students they are safe, supported, and celebrated for who they are," CoMo for Progress said in the petition.

Traci Wilson-Kleeamp, president of Race Matters, Friends Como said if the signs were taken down then the school doesn't believe in their equity statement.

"And they made a decision to take down those signs and their not paying attention and acting on their equity statement, there's something the matter," Kleepamp said.

Kleeamp said anyone who wanted to remove the signs was being ignorant about history.

"All of those signs are tied to curriculum, they're tied to history. It's ridiculous for those signs to be taken down because people are ignorant about history," Kleeamp said

John Potter, creator of CPS Parents for Accountability and Transparency was one of the parents that express concerns to the school about the signs.

Potter said being a bi-racial man himself, getting the signs removed had nothing to do with race. He had concerns the signs were political and forms of advertising.

"We shouldn't allow this type of writing on the school walls. If you're able to do these kind of signs what other kind of signs are you able to do?" Potter said.

CPS spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said the items were removed because they were left over from a student project from last year and were not part of an extra-curricular club or activity.

The district said in a statement:

"The district is committed to the promotion of our equity statement, the value of diversity, and the importance of inclusion that includes signage welcoming all scholars to our schools.  Additionally, the district also has existing policies and procedures related to signage for activities and clubs and classroom instruction that it must follow.  We will continue to work on implementation of those existing procedures as we begin a new school year.  Schools will be receiving signs promoting an inclusive and welcoming environment for all scholars from the district.  Additionally, school-sponsored extra-curricular and co-curricular clubs have access to post signage related to their organizations. We encourage our scholars to accept, embrace and be empowered by their individual identities.  We want to celebrate our scholars’ voices and create spaces where their interests are showcased."

CoMo for Progress said the CPS Equity Statement in the student handbook states the following:

“We will accept, embrace, and empower students and staff in their individual identities to establish and sustain human dignity, justice, equitable treatment and inclusiveness in the classroom and workplace.”

The organization said BLM signs are not "political in nature" and it should be noted that the U.S. Office of Special Counsel set an advisory opinion in July 2020 which stated “expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t political or partisan.”

In the petition CoMo for Progress highlights says the federal government has decided supporting BLM in the workplace is protected speech for federal workers.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Leila Mitchell

Leila is a Penn State graduate who started with KMIZ in March 2021. She studied journalism and criminal justice in college.


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