Scarborough school district tells teachers not to display ‘controversial’ phrases such as ‘Black Lives Matter’

Scarborough High School students are planning a protest at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday outside the town’s municipal building in response to a letter sent to teachers Monday from the district, telling staff not to wear or display slogans which could be considered ‘controversial.’ The letter lists the following as examples of images and phrases which ‘have the potential to be controversial or politicized.’ Biden Harris: Our Best Days Lie Ahead Trump Pence: Make America Great AgainBlack Lives MatterBattle for the Soul of a NationWhite Lives Matter The statement references a district policy titled ‘Controversial Issues’ which provides guidance, that the district says, can help teachers guide students through conversations. Class of 2021 School Board Rep. Maxwell Bennett said, “The main issue that students are recognizing is that these phrases are being banned for being “controversial” and “politicized,” something that many members of the student body fervently disagree with.”Monday, Scarborough Public Schools released a clarification which stated, “We are posting this clarification to address some misunderstanding that has come up with respect to the Scarborough School Department’s policy regarding political speech by employees.”It continued to say, “The Scarborough School Department has adopted a policy that while staff is on school grounds they may not use the classroom as a forum to advance their own political views except if they have a pedagogical reason to do so.”Scarborough Public Schools Superintendent Sanford Prince said, “the idea is that you want to open up a conversation in the classroom but you want the students to form their own opinion and you don’t want to in any way influence them so the more we can be neutral on this stuff but engage students to think for themselves.”Related specifically to teachers possibly supporting Black Lives Matter while at work, Prince said, “That might be something we’d have to further.”Krystal Ash-Cuthbert, president of the Scarborough Education Association, said teachers are welcome to participate in Tuesday’s protest, however the union does not object to the district’s policy on ‘controversial issues.’ Shay Stewart Bouley, who runs the blog Black Girl in Maine, says the memo was sent to her by at least four teachers who objected to the material. “As a Black resident of Maine, who happens to head an anti-racism org and who has been writing about race in ME since 2003, the statement by the Scarborough school district is beyond the pale,” Bouley posted on Twitter. Bouley noted how the district’s revised statement noted efforts to offer staff training in diversity and cultural compentence. Bouley believes due to that education, district leaders should have been more sensitive to the impact and frustration, she says, the memo causes.

Scarborough High School students are planning a protest at 7:15 a.m. Tuesday outside the town’s municipal building in response to a letter sent to teachers Monday from the district, telling staff not to wear or display slogans which could be considered ‘controversial.’

The letter lists the following as examples of images and phrases which ‘have the potential to be controversial or politicized.’

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  • Biden Harris: Our Best Days Lie Ahead
  • Trump Pence: Make America Great Again
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Battle for the Soul of a Nation
  • White Lives Matter

The statement references a district policy titled ‘Controversial Issues’ which provides guidance, that the district says, can help teachers guide students through conversations.

Class of 2021 School Board Rep. Maxwell Bennett said, “The main issue that students are recognizing is that these phrases are being banned for being “controversial” and “politicized,” something that many members of the student body fervently disagree with.”

Monday, Scarborough Public Schools released a clarification which stated, “We are posting this clarification to address some misunderstanding that has come up with respect to the Scarborough School Department’s policy regarding political speech by employees.”

It continued to say, “The Scarborough School Department has adopted a policy that while staff is on school grounds they may not use the classroom as a forum to advance their own political views except if they have a pedagogical reason to do so.”

Scarborough Public Schools Superintendent Sanford Prince said, “the idea is that you want to open up a conversation in the classroom but you want the students to form their own opinion and you don’t want to in any way influence them so the more we can be neutral on this stuff but engage students to think for themselves.”

Related specifically to teachers possibly supporting Black Lives Matter while at work, Prince said, “That might be something we’d have to further.”

Krystal Ash-Cuthbert, president of the Scarborough Education Association, said teachers are welcome to participate in Tuesday’s protest, however the union does not object to the district’s policy on ‘controversial issues.’

Shay Stewart Bouley, who runs the blog Black Girl in Maine, says the memo was sent to her by at least four teachers who objected to the material.

“As a Black resident of Maine, who happens to head an anti-racism org and who has been writing about race in ME since 2003, the statement by the Scarborough school district is beyond the pale,” Bouley posted on Twitter.

Bouley noted how the district’s revised statement noted efforts to offer staff training in diversity and cultural compentence.

Bouley believes due to that education, district leaders should have been more sensitive to the impact and frustration, she says, the memo causes.