Black Lives Matter signs belong on school campuses, parents say

Parents told the Wake County school board on Tuesday that Black Lives Matter signs belong on school campuses.
Parents told the Wake County school board on Tuesday that Black Lives Matter signs belong on school campuses. Photo courtesy of Stephanie Lormand

A parent who placed two Black Lives Matter signs on a school campus complained to the Wake County school board on Tuesday about their removal.

Stephanie Lormand is leader of the PTA’s Green Team at Conn Elementary School in east Raleigh. “A week ago, my kids and I brought potted plants to the front garden, and to honor Black History Month, we also included two Black Lives Matter signs, to which we added examples of influential black people and place in Southeast Raleigh,” she told the board.

But by 8:30 the next morning, Lormand said, the assistant principal had removed the signs, with the school system’s communications office telling her the signs didn’t relate to the school program.

“If the concept that ‘black lives matter’ is not directly related to what’s happening in schools all year, and especially during the one month dedicated to black history, then what are we even doing here?” she asked the school board.

Lormand thanked the board for its race equity efforts through the office of Rodney Trice, assistant superintendent for equity affairs. “However, without local community oversight of these programs, at every school, there is a very real risk that equity will devolve into another generation believing that we can be colorblind,” she said. “If white folks can say equity and diversity, it shouldn’t be hard for us to say that ‘black lives matter,’ but it is, and because of that, we need oversight from parents of color.”

Lormand, who is white, said prejudices were putting students in harm’s way. “There have been school cops so focused on over-policing black and brown students that they missed the warning signs of a potential mass shooter – statistically more likely to be both white and male, like my own children,” she said.

Lormand reminded the board that she and others asked school leaders last year for more protections for students from school resource officers. Specifically, parents asked the board to pass a resolution to protect undocumented children from the Wake County sheriff’s partnership with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, she said.

“See, there are just so many ways that children can be killed in a public school, even if they don’t die in the actual building,” Lormand said. “White supremacy – this system of structured and institutionalized racism – is literally killing all of us, but we can’t even say Black Lives Matter?”

Lormand enjoyed support as she spoke Tuesday, with more than one audience member voicing approval.

“How many years have Wake County’s parents and students shared these incredibly awful classroom experiences, only to watch again as the institution uses the policies it wrote for its own protection as a defense?” Lormand asked.

She answered her own question: “Forty-two years, my lifetime.”

“The asking time is over; now it’s the telling time,” Lormand said. “This is our money, and our kids.”

Another parent, Mary King of Wake Forest, has a second-grader at Rolesville Elementary School and a rising kindergartner. “If my children are old enough to participate in active shooter drills, they’re old enough to understand that there’s injustice in this world, and for people of color, it is all too real,” she said.

The Black Lives Matter signs offer a reassuring message, said King, who is also white. “For a child of color to come to school and see a Black Lives Matter sign and think this is a safe space for me is vitally important,” she said.

Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629