Muncie, IN – Nearly 300 students protested after a Muncie Central High School teacher was told to move an anti-police Black Lives Matter display out of the hallway and into a classroom when school resource officers and others complained about it.
The problem began when students were given an assignment based on the graphic novel “V for Vendetta,” which featured an anarchist revolutionary protagonist in a Guy Fawkes mask who was on a mission to bring down a dystopian United Kingdom and its fascist rulers.
Language arts teacher Katie O’Connor said in a Facebook post that she created a hallway display of posters students created to draw attention to problems in current American society on Nov. 8, including several which depicted police brutality and racism.
O’Connor said nobody complained to her about the Black Lives Matter posters or the sign that depicted a police officer as a pig for the first three days the display was up, although the teacher admitted she had felt a “cold shoulder” and saw people taking pictures of the posters.
On Nov. 11, the teacher said she heard school resource officers (SROs) discussing the posters in the hallway.
“They appeared to be trying to debunk various posters,” O’Connor wrote.
She said the student who had created the pig poster was in the hallway and the school resource officers attempted to discuss the project with her, but the student was clearly uncomfortable so the teacher stepped in.
“After a few moments, I stepped over to join the conversation when I believed she wanted to be finished talking… At this time, another teacher who was in her prep joined and eventually the student stepped away, leaving the 5 of us adults to continue the conversation… Other students remained in the hallway in the background observing… The five adults – and a couple students who came in and out – had a long and productive talk about hard issues…” O’Connor posted to Facebook in a numbered list format.
“Both sides agreed and disagreed and certain things. For example, we ALL agreed ‘police need more training.’ No one yelled… At the end of the conversation – one of the officers said thank you for talking with us and said it felt productive. The other two also said thank you. So did the teacher and myself… The whole reason I allowed that hard conversation to happen in front of my students was to MODEL for them how to engage respectfully with people you disagree with. I am a big fan of teachable moments and that one was dropped in my lap…” the teacher continued.
But she said students couldn’t handle the civil conversation and debate that they overheard and “were noticeably -and admitted to- being upset.”
O’Connor said the students didn’t like the school resource officers’ opinions or comments by another teacher who walked by during the conversation.
Quinnith Bouton, a Muncie Central High School student, who was in the hallway during the discussion filmed it and posted the video to social media, sparking controversy in the community, WIBC reported.
This is NOT okay. Our class did a project after reading the book V for Vendetta. This book talks about an antihero named V tearing down the government for racism, sexism, and homophobia. All of which can be pinpointed to a few things happening currently in our world. Our teacher, pic.twitter.com/XQfZSdzZ9c
— Quinnith (@SouredMiIk) November 13, 2021
That was when the school district got involved.
“The display created a disruptive discussion between a student and school resource officers that the student and other observers found offensive,” Muncie Community Schools Chief Communications Officer Andy Klotz told the Star Press in an email.
Klotz said that O’Connor was asked to move the posters into the classroom where people could be invited to view them.
O’Connor said the school referred to a recommendation by Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita who called Black Lives Matter an “unequivocally political organization” and suggested schools limit Black Lives Matter posters, WIBC reported.
Students were outraged about the school’s decision with regard to the posters and staged a protests on campus on Nov. 15, the Star Press reported.
Muncie Community Schools cancelled in-person classes at Muncie Central High School for the three days that followed what administrators called a “peaceful protest” in their letter explaining the switch to virtual learning to parents, WIBC reported.
Wednesday, Nov. 17, will again be an e-Learning day for Muncie Central High students as we prepare the appropriate course of action to address the issues raised on Monday. Thank you.
— Muncie Community Schools (@MuncieSchools) November 16, 2021
The school district said in the letter than no more in-school protests would be permitted and that students who tried it would be disciplined.
Students have demanded an apology from the school resource officers for their comments about the posters and vowed to continue protesting, WRTV reported.
“We are protected and do not lose our First Amendments when we step on the school property,” Muncie Central High School student Miyumi Ixcuna said. “We just want to make a change and if nothing is going to be done. We won’t stop protesting.”