Did Rochester Public Schools Say to Remove All ‘Black Lives Matter’ Materials?
What is true? What is not true?
Two differing statements have been made on social media in regards to Black Lives Matter messaging in Rochester Public Schools classrooms - one that states all materials needed to be removed from classrooms and the other that this is misinformation.
"Teacher speech is not free speech"
On Sunday, a Facebook page called Rochester for Justice posted the following:
Rochester Public Schools claims, year after year of their commitment to solving their systemic racism, and racial discipline disparities. In spite of this, it has been brought to Rochester For Justice's attention that last week RPS Cabinet directed building Administrators to instruct teachers to remove any "Black Lives Matter" Material from their classrooms. Highlighting, that if there were any complaints it is seen as "disruptive". The Union has told the teachers currently they don't have a leg to stand on because, by law, "teacher speech is not free speech". They can however encourage the public to make a stand.
We wanted to help these teachers get the message out. Tomorrow it is encourage that all parents, students, and teachers wear black to school as a stand in solidarity and protest. The teachers can not have any messaging on their clothing until their Union responds, but we do encourage students and parents to wear Black Lives Matter insignia/clothing if you have it.
We also encourage you to email the district and let them know this is completely unacceptable. To limit the expression of our students, parents, and teachers in this way further exacerbates the consistent and pervasive racism in our schools. It proves once again the tone deaf and clear lack of commitment to anti-racism that our school district fails in time and time again.
Dear RPS Families, We have heard about the misinformation circulating on social media...
The following statement was shared with Rochester Public School families Monday afternoon directly and via social media:
Dear RPS Families,
We have heard about the misinformation circulating on social media, stating that the RPS Cabinet directed administrators to have staff remove any Black Lives Matter (BLM) messaging in the classrooms. This is not accurate.
The District’s leadership group came together to discuss supporting our staff and students during this highly emotional and critical time in our history. The District continues to have conversations about speech, First Amendment rights, and how we can support our students and staff. The question on BLM material was asked during a District leadership meeting. During that conversation, there was never a directive to remove posters/flags or disallow wearing BLM apparel. Our School Board is expected to address the District’s position on the topic at tomorrow’s school board meeting. We want to reiterate, there was never a directive at any time to remove BLM materials from classrooms.
We firmly believe in our equity statements that were adopted in September. We value our staff, students, and families. As educators, we are in an unique position to not only teach and learn, but to advocate for human rights issues that impact our students, staff, and families.
We plan to follow up via email on Wednesday, after the Board has visited this topic in their public meeting tomorrow, beginning at 5:30 PM. The meeting can be streamed at youtube.com/ISD535.
Rochester for Justice did have a few responses on their Facebook page Monday afternoon. You can find their page here.
"Jessica, What the heck was this e-mail about?"
If you opened up your e-mail today and are an RPS parent, you may have wondered what prompted this e-mail. I know this doesn't clear anything up but it might give you some context why that message was sent in the first place. I had several messages sent to me asking what the heck was going on.
If you are like me, it is hard to know what is true anymore and I would really like to hear from the staff, any staff, to hear what is true and what is not. I need more than these two statements.
What I do know:
- There are individuals on the cabinet that I know, respect, and I don't believe they are as malicious as this seems to be.
- I know many teachers, paras, and others that work in our school district. Some have let me know how they don't have a voice or if they do speak up, their job is in jeopardy. I have kept all of those conversations confidential and am open to having more with those who are willing to talk. You can find me on my Facebook page - Jessica On The Radio, Instagram, or firstname.lastname@example.org
- And...every person has value in this world regardless of what you look like or believe in.