Community reacts to Graham’s decision to remove BLM banner at high school

Community reacts to Graham’s decision to remove BLM banner at high school

ST PARIS — The Graham and St. Paris communities are sounding off after Graham Local Schools removed a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner from a fence at the high school.

In a statement, the district said it removed the banner because it violated district facility policy.

The district said it did not receive any prior communication about requesting the banner be hung on the fence, which it says it needs in order to create an “orderly and fair” process for those that wish to use Graham facilities.

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The district said the banner was removed because it didn’t follow the proper protocols – not because of what the banner said.

But some in the Graham community felt the situation could’ve been handled differently in order to promote more inclusion, including senior Amirah Etayem.

Etayem told News Center 7′s Jenna Lawson that inclusion of others is an issue in the predominantly-white district, and she was hopeful that the banner was a step in the right direction.

“A lot of students reshared it on social media and said how happy they were that there was a sign up. But when they took it down, it was quite the opposite,” she said.

Etayem said she believes complaints from parents and others in the community played a role in the district’s decision to remove the banner.

Some people wrote on social media that they thought the banner was “political” and didn’t have a place on school grounds.

Another person wrote that they felt the banner gave peace to African Americans, but downgrades the peace that other races deserve.

Still others felt it needed to be removed because it didn’t go through the proper application process.

In response to the criticism of the banner, Etayem’s classmate, Shamar Compton said “It’s not political B.S. -- it really isn’t. It’s a matter of life or death. It’s a human dying -- it’s Black Lives Matter. People are innocently dying.”

Compton said instead of taking the banner down, he would’ve liked to see the district be more supportive of their minority students.

He said even if the banner doesn’t go back up, he hopes the district does a public showing that they stand behind all of their students, like on the electronic sign in front of the high school.

“It can be like Black lives matter. We stand with you guys. something. Just don’t be silent. That’ll fix it -- if we just keep talking about it. It makes us feel like we’re heard,” he said.

Etayem and her mom said they will work with the school to try to get the banner displayed again.

Graham did say as part of their statement that the district values diversity within the school community and remains committed to discussing diversity and inclusion issues.