When a white teacher at Sandy Springs High School in suburban Atlanta told a student that the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is a terrorist organization and confiscated his BLM shirt, students responded quickly with a show of solidarity, organizing a sit-in protest Friday.
“Everyone was outraged in our senior group chat,” the three senior students who planned the sit-in — Grant Showell, Nema Zayed and Sahkiya Olatunji — explained to Mic. “Word spread fast … We decided we wanted to do a peaceful sit-in to make a statement that we wouldn’t stand for something like this.”
While some teachers joined the students, others demanded they return to class. School and district administrators however, refute that the incident which triggered the dispute, ever happened.
“Everything you have heard this morning is factually inaccurate,” Michael Scott Hanson, the school’s principal, told the students. A spokesperson for Fulton County Schools, Susan Hale, also characterized the incident as a rumor.
“That is a rumor that we have not been able to substantiate,” she said to Mic. “No teacher or administrator told students that BLM was a terrorist organization or asked them to remove their shirts.”
Emails were sent to parents of Sandy Springs High that also said the rumor was untrue. “We support our students’ freedom of expression as long as it does not create a school disruption,” it read.
But the student who accused the teacher of taking his BLM shirt, identified only as Curtis, told Fox 5 Atlanta that “when (the administrator) took it, I was just in my tank top … I can’t walk around just in a tank top, so I got a shirt from my friend.”
“It just makes me sad that they’re trying to say that it didn’t happen. We’re just trying to prove we can come together and Black lives really do matter,” said another student, Emma Barhoumi.
Some students, the senior protest planners told Mic, have also been harassed for not standing during the pledge of allegiance, following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s widely publicized act of dissent.
“Our school is actually extremely diverse, as diverse as it (is), awareness is at an all-time low,” the senior students said. “We want to eliminate harassment from teachers and administrators telling us to stand for the pledge … When we take a knee we don’t rant or say anything about it in class, and a lot of the teachers have decided to voice their opinions about it even though we don’t voice ours.”
“We have many American history, American government classes that are not all inclusive, that do not teach the entirety of the American history,” they added, “For Black Lives Matter to be called a terrorist group, that’s just outrageous.”
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