A Vermont high school has become the first in the nation to raise a Black Lives Matter flag even though only 5 percent of the students at the school are black.
The flag-raising on Thursday was led by students of Montpelier High School, where 18 of the 350 students are black, as part of a series of Black History Month events, CNN reported.
“We are committed to improvement and this dialogue and to work for equity and racial justice in our school system,” Principal Mike McRaith said, according to WPTZ. “We can and we must improve our educational system to be more culturally competent and ever more inclusive to the historically marginalized and oppressed.”
Faculty and neighbors joined the students, who took turns raising the flag.
Montpelier High School in Vermont is flying a Black Lives Matter flag all month long in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth. School officials say it’s the first high school in the U.S. to do so. pic.twitter.com/6vjj2K5ARv
— AJ+ (@ajplus) February 1, 2018
“People choose their flags because they want to be represented and they want to be seen,” student Joelyn Mensah said. “We students do not feel like we are represented or seen in our education and we are here to raise the flag because we want to be seen and we will demand to be represented in our education.”
The idea to raise the flag was brought to the school board last year by the student group Racial Justice Alliance, which was founded by Mensah.
The school did receive some backlash for the decision, getting phone calls and emails from those opposed to the idea. But state Rep. Kevin Christie believes residents of Vermont “should be proud of what we are doing in our schools when we can have our youth be this responsible.”
I, members of my Judiciary Committee, legislators, community members, leaders, law enforcement came out to stand with & support the #Montpelier High School
Racial Justice Alliance as they raised the #BlackLivesMatter flag in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth#VT #vtpoli pic.twitter.com/ZQ5oTIkfkY
— Maxine Grad (@RepMaxineGrad) February 1, 2018
Montpelier’s principal invited local law enforcement officers to the flag-raising to show there was no intention to disrespect or attack them in any way, according to WPTZ.
“Thank you for understanding that the decision to fly the Black Lives Matter flag this month at Montpelier High School is not anti-police. It is anti-bias,” McRaith said. “Thank you for understanding that we reject any purported violence associated with Black Lives Matter and embrace the message of equity for all.”
The school hopes to keep the flag up for the month of February and students are hoping the dialogues begun now will continue even after the flag comes down.
“Even after Black History Month comes to an end, we still are here, our education still matters and we will still be black,” Mensah said.
Others agree with Republican state legislator Thomas Terenzini who told WPTZ this week that the school was setting “a bad example.”
“I don’t see myself as being a bigot or prejudiced but I just don’t think that Black Lives Matter is a national organization to look up [to],” Terenzini said.
Reactions on Twitter included support and praise for the bold move by the high school as well as condemnation for supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
few things on this story, if #Blacklivesmatter was really about Black lives mattering, they’d be in Chicago, South Central and many other urban areas where innocent Black people are killed daily. Raising a flag on a public school in Vermont is ridiculous. https://t.co/sn5VnnTPXt
— Joe Pags Pagliarulo (@JoeTalkShow) February 2, 2018
NO WAY! Black Lives Matter do not represent the entire black population! They are an insult to all intelligent Black Patriots. They are a liberal group of attention getting hateful spewers that do no real good! They cause trouble while disrespecting our Flag and law enforcement. https://t.co/zE74eKXdlw
— Patriot🇺🇸LifeLover🇮🇱🇺🇸 (@LoriinUtah) February 2, 2018
— PragerU (@prageru) February 1, 2018
— The Den Fitness and Nutrtion Center (@Chaaseit) February 2, 2018
Where are the parents? Why fly a flag from an organization that embraces & encourages violence? Is this the example they want to pass along to impressionable children?
— Gabriella (@GabriellaR613) January 30, 2018
No, a GOVERNMENT FUNDED high school should not be taking a political stance. Unless you want the Vermont chapter of the KKK burning a cross out front?
— Mobmanic 🇺🇸 (@mobmanic_) February 2, 2018
— Ward A. Allen (@wardaallen) February 2, 2018
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