Fayette Co. superintendent, principal back "Black Lives Matter" club at high school; questions raised when student poster spread on social media

Herald-Leader, Lexington, July 14, 2016

Black Lives Matter sign posted at Bryan Station High School to promote club
By McKenna Horsley

Students’ posting of a Black Lives Matter sign in Bryan Station High School fits with the Fayette County Public Schools’ values, officials said on Wednesday.

A statement school officials released Wednesday said the students are a part of the high school’s Black Lives Matter club and made the poster to promote their organization, “similar to signs about other student groups, including sports teams, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the Latin Dance Club or the Drama Club, to name a few.”

A photo of the poster circulated on social media Wednesday.

School officials said the club was created in the fall of 2015 after four students of different races met with Bryan Station High School Principal James McMillin. The club was approved after the students worked with the school’s administration team, a teacher sponsor and a University of Kentucky professor. School officials said the club, which meets once a month, followed the same process as other extracurricular organizations.

“Working with our students to establish the Black Lives Matter club was a journey that both enlightened and inspired me,” McMillin said in a statement. “These students are not saying that only certain lives matter, rather they are helping to educate and shed light on some of the social injustices that exist in the America we live in today.”

Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk said in the school district’s statement that the student group is the kind of effort the school district should encourage.

“We should empower our young people to speak out, speak up, and work with the administration at their schools about issues that matter,” Caulk said in the statement. “We need our students to learn that they can change the world. In this case, you’ve got students doing the right thing. What they’re doing is building racial harmony at one of our most racially diverse schools. It’s an injustice for anyone to make assumptions about the work of the students based on a sign or preconceived notion.”

The statement said McMillin agreed with Caulk.

“The fact that the news media is asking us questions today because someone got upset about the students’ sign and posted on social media is exactly the reason I’m so proud of our students and the work they are doing,” McMillin said in the statement. “They are having the kind of in-depth discussions that make adults uncomfortable, but need to be happen. This club has sparked real change that I hope lights a passion in all of us to do more to ensure that a person’s demography does not equal his or her destiny.”

The statement said the Black Lives Matter group has sponsored conversations about stereotypes, staff diversity, having higher expectations for all students and fostering racial harmony at Bryan Station High School over the past six months. The group also held a session between Lexington Police Department representatives and students in the club. The statement said former Lexington Police Assistant Chief Lawrence Weathers said the session was called for because students “felt that young people in Lexington have a more positive relationship with law enforcement than they were seeing represented in the national news from around the country.”

“They felt like we were more approachable and asked us a bunch of questions about how to engage youth and establish stronger relationships between law enforcement officers and the community,” Weathers said in the statement. “It was really a great conversation. It was slated for only an hour but lasted much longer because it was such a positive experience.”

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