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Sep 02 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

This Student Wasn’t Allowed To Wear a Black Lives Matter Shirt for Picture Day

By Madeleine Williamson - Sep 02 2016

On picture day, sophomore Mariah Harvard wanted to make a statement with a Black Lives Matter shirt. But, the security staff and principal of Buckeye Union High School in Buckeye, Ariz. forced Harvard to change into a white shirt, Teen Vogue reported Tuesday. 

Harvard had worn the shirt before. But she noted in a Facebook post that it had provoked comments like “Black lives don’t matter.” Perhaps, she wrote, this is why she had to change.

“She tells me that I am not allowed to wear the shirt that means a great deal to me and my African American friends. She then walks out of the office and hands me a white shirt that's meaningless and non political and has nothing to do for what I'm standing for,” Harvard said in the Facebook post.

Harvard refused to take the ultimatum sitting down. Along with her Facebook post, she was part of a 10 student walkout. The students wore Black Lives Matter shirts as they protested the school’s actions. Parents, a pastor and a diversity consultant were also present. They argue that Harvard has support in the Constitution. In 1969, the Supreme Court ruled on free speech in schools. According to the ruling, schools can only restrict students’ speech if it interfered with instruction.

The school argues that Harvard’s shirt did interfere with instruction. “The district strives to remain politically neutral while still allowing student expression. When these expressions interfere with the learning process and become a potential danger to students, they have to be addressed,” the school said in a statement.

For her part, Harvard plans to continue to fight the decision. She will wear the shirt to school again, she wrote on Facebook.

Lead image credit: Peter Burka on Flickr Creative Commons.

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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