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Maya Lin Black Lives Matter Matter Escalates

Maya Lin student’s artwork that was defaced. (From ACLU letter to AUSD.)

An incident at Maya Lin school on Back to School night early last month, wherein a student’s “Black Lives Matter” artwork was defaced, has developed further, with an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union Northern California office addressing the school district in a terse letter.

At the school, a student had created art work that included the “Black Lives Matter” message, which was subsequently defaced – persons unknown had scratched out the word “black” and replaced it with “all.”

The phrase “All Lives Matter” is often used as a retort to the “Black Lives Matter” message with intent to diminish it.

However, it is sometimes also expressed by individuals who are unaware of its dilutive impact.

In response, a family brought Black Lives Matter stickers and signs for distribution to Maya Lin’s Back to School night.

According to e-mail exchanges with the school district, which the ACLU released with its letter, school district superintendent Sean McPhetridge wrote to a parent on September 11, that, “I heard about this issue late last week when a parent called to complain about their kindergarten child coming home with a Black Lives Matter sticker which the family did not appreciate and did not solicit.”

McPhetridge was responding to Maya Lin parent Dede Lewis who told him that she “heard second hand, that school administrators are saying Black Lives Matter signs aren’t allowed at AUSD unless they are a student’s art work.”

On Wednesday, the Northern California office of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a press release and released its letter to the school district.

“Black Lives Matter stickers and signs are protected speech and censorship of them is illegal,” said ACLU of Northern California staff attorney Abre’ Conner.

Via, e-mail Conner told Action Alameda News, “The ACLU fully supports students’ rights to free speech and expression. In this situation, the school district took affirmative steps to stop student speech as it pertained to Black Lives Matter signs and stickers. The school district banned Black Lives Matter speech because it considered it ‘controversial’ and that is not the legal standard for this issue.”

On Thursday, the school district issued a statement, saying, in part, “First and most importantly, AUSD has no ban on ‘Black Lives Matter’ material. AUSD honors our students’ First Amendment right to engage in political speech. As such, students on our campuses have been wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts and stickers, creating Black Lives Matter artwork, and supporting Black Lives Matter as a movement for some time.”

“What AUSD does not allow is the posting or distribution of materials by outside groups or community members.”

McPhetridge went on to explain that the district cannot “pick and choose” which groups can use district facilities to press their cause, lest the district be required to although other viewpoints to be expressed; for example, would the district have to permit community members to distribute “White Lives Matter” stickers and signs as well?

Pressed on the question of whether the district would have to also allow for the distribution of literature showing the Confederate / Lee battle flag, or “All Lives Matter” stickers, or “Blue Lives Matter” literature, and whether or not the ACLU would support community members looking to distribute that material, an ACLU spokesperson wrote, “The ACLU supports all students’ rights to free speech and expression. We review requests on a case by case basis.”

The documentation released by the ACLU and the statement from the school district, are included below.

It’s unclear if the school district’s statement will satisfy the attorneys at the ACLU Northern California office.

ACLU and AUSD Exchange on Maya Lin Black Lives Matter Incident by Action Alameda News on Scribd

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