Led by Mariah Havard, the Arizona high school student made to take off her Black Lives Matter T-shirt last week by school authorities, about a dozen students staged a walkout and rally against the administration Monday morning.
Chanting “We’re fired up, can’t take it no more!” the protesters walked off Buckeye Union High School grounds to protest the incident and to raise awareness about threats and intimidation several students have received since the episode on Aug. 23.
Shianne McNeil, a junior, told 12 News KPNX she felt the mood around the school change in the past week.
“I just get a lot of dirty looks—a lot,” she said, “and I don’t like that.”
“There’s been threats—the kids have been threatened. There’s been racial slurs,” Roxanne Havard, Mariah’s mother, said.
The incident occurred on the school’s picture day last Tuesday, when Havard, a sophomore, said she purposefully wore her Black Lives Matter T-shirt.
Soon after arriving, she was called into the office of an assistant principal who told her that the school’s dress code policy banned clothing and accessories which could “disrupt the education process,” saying that another student had complained about her T-shirt. She was then given a plain white T-shirt and told she had to change out of her BLM one.
Havard complied but not before posting a picture of herself on Facebook and then calling her mother, who had a meeting with the administration the following day to clarify the policy, citing the fact that confederate flag T-shirts had been worn by students in the past with no penalty.
In support of Havard, fellow student, Genesis Santoyo wore a BLM T-shirt to school Wednesday and was told to change as well.
“Today, I felt as though I was being punished for being proud of my culture … in the principal’s office, my dad kept on asking him why they’re suppressing me and why it’s not okay for me to be proud of who I am,” Santoyo told 12 News.
Only after Santoyo complained of a double standard concerning acceptable T-shirts did the school administration announce that clothes displaying the confederate flag would no longer be accepted on school grounds.
But some felt that to equate the racist symbol with the movement against police killings of Black people missed the point entirely.
As Havard explained on her Facebook page, “The creator of the confederate flag in his own words said, ‘As a people we are fighting to maintain the heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race.’”