California School District Is Banning Black Lives Matter Signs and Shirts, ACLU Says

A California school district and the American Civil Liberties Union are battling over allegations that the district has banned Black Lives Matter shirts, signs and stickers.

The Northern California ACLU has accused the Alameda Unified School District of telling students to keep Black Lives Matter materials out of its schools, which it says is a violation of the First Amendment. This became a major issue after two recent racist incidents at district schools provoked students into demonstrations.

But the district claims this is a misunderstanding and that it is not targeting the protest movement.

"It is an issue of facility use," Susan E. Davis, spokeswoman for the district, told Newsweek. "We don't allow outside groups to post or distribute material on campus."

Despite speaking with Newsweek, the district has yet to officially answer the ACLU's accusations.

The civil rights group has demanded a formal response from the district by Monday and said it will consider "next steps" if there's no answer. Davis said the district is working on a response.

Tensions in the district rose in September after two incidents. A four-foot-long noose was found outside Alameda High School, which police labeled a hate crime. At Maya Lin Elementary School, a hand-drawn Black Lives Matter sign had been crossed out with "All Lives Matter" scrawled over it.

Many students responded by wearing Black Lives Matter T-shirts and creating Black Lives Matter signs to hang up at the school. The district said it was fine with this until parents left Black Lives Matter stickers at a back-to-school night for students and family members to take home, and a Black Lives Matter yard sign appeared in front of a school.

"That is not OK," Davis said. "We also don't allow community members to come in and give out Bibles and flyers for dry cleaning services."

In an email obtained by the ACLU, Superintendent Sean McPhetridge wrote to a parent that it became "problematic to allow certain parents/guardians that ability to speak or share posters/stickers without offering same to those of opposite viewpoints."

He added, "can you imagine how students and families and staff would feel if we were required to allow a White Lives Matter sign/speaker on the property?" A district parent, Dede Lewis, wrote back to him that "White Lives Matter is a false equivalency."

The district also said it does not allow "outside groups and community members" to post or distribute materials in schools per a 2009 California School Board Association policy.

"This policy exists because, as a government agency, we cannot pick and choose among various causes to support," the district said.

ACLU Lawyer Abre' Conner said the school is twisting the issue.

"There is nothing really misleading about what we put out there," she said. "What's misleading is that the school district is trying to act as though they didn't say Black Lives Matter signs and stickers were not allowed."