Seattle school cancels event after security threat, BLM controversy
Seattle Public Schools announced late Thursday that it cancelled the annual Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative event at John Muir Elementary School. The event was scheduled for Friday, Sept. 16.
The annual event brings more than 100 black men to line the outside of the school and greet students as they arrive. It is meant to set a positive impression and provide role models for young students. Community members who usually participate are local lawyers, government officials, businessmen and more.
This year, it became known that teachers at John Muir Elementary School planned to wear Black Lives Matter tshirts on the same day. Media attention to that demonstration caused a flood of phone calls to the school district. The district noted that security threats arose around the event.
The school district announced Thursday night:
Due to actions outside of the SPS community, including a potential security threat to our students, we are cancelling the Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative celebration scheduled at John Muir Elementary School for Friday, September 16. This decision was made after consultation with the Seattle Police Department and the SPS safety and security staff.
The Seattle Times reports that there will be a police presence at John Muir Elementary School on Friday.
Black Lives Matter t-shirts will be worn Friday by teachers at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary. A parent of a John Muir student says he not only learned about the protest from the radio — not the school — but that he can’t get a hold of the school to talk about the matter.
KING 5 reported that teacher Jennifer Whitney came up with the idea to make t-shirts that read: “Black Lives Matter, We Stand Together” with the school’s name include, with the hope to start conversations about race. Donations paid for the shirts.
Teacher JR Lorca told KING 5 that some push back was expected but that “I think that is an invitation for families in the community that might not agree with us to come in and have a discussion with us.”
Black Lives Matter and John Muir Elementary School
Dori spoke about the t-shirts on Wednesday, saying he believes the teachers are moving further away from educating and bringing social activism into the classroom.
A parent — who Dori called Ernst to keep his identity private — said he had was unaware of the teachers’ plans until hearing about it on the radio.
“I was taking my lunch and I heard you guys talking about it on the radio and I said this must be impossible,” Ernst said. “I mean, there is no way that this could happen.”
After listening to the show, Ernst said he called the school and that someone answered, but that the principal was not available to talk about the Black Lives Matter demonstration.
“I said, ‘Do you realize that this was on The Dori Monson Show and that you’re going to be getting tons of phone calls on this?’” Ernst said. “She said, ‘Well, I already have.’ So I said, ‘What are you going to do about it?’ And she goes, ‘Well, we don’t know yet.’”
Ernst said he left a message for the principal but never heard back. He tried the superintendent’s office the next morning, but was told that they were only taking emails and was hung up on.
“I could not get a hold of anybody. Nobody,” Ernst said. “… What really scares me is the point that if something was happening with my child at this point, how would I call the school and tell them I’m coming to pick him up or if something is going on? I can’t contact John Muir right now.”
Luke Duecy, a communications specialist with Seattle Public Schools, said there is no demonstration scheduled for Friday, but that an annual event called “Black Men United” will be held at John Muir. The event features African American males who volunteer. He said it was a “really positive, empowering moment.” The teachers who are choosing to wear t-shirts are a different matter.
“Teachers can wear whatever they’d like to school,” he said. “It’s their choice but the event is not about anything other than black men uniting. It’s always been planned that way and it’s never been anything but that.”
When asked if parents could call the district to speak about their concerns, Duecy would not say, instead providing an email — [email protected] — that he said was “the most effective way for parents to engage.”
Ernst, like Dori, is not happy about the teachers wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.
“There should not be politics in school,” he said. “They are there for academics and math, they’re not there to learn the politics of the day that’s going on for elementary school people.”
“I feel helpless,” Ernst said. “What can I say?”