Dublin Scioto High School staff member shirts prompt dialogue
Words printed on T-shirts worn by Dublin Scioto High School staff members have become a source of conflict for the Dublin City Schools community.
A tweet from the Scioto High School Twitter account the morning of Sept. 10 featured a picture of teacher Scott Marple, Principal Bob Scott and Assistant Principal Leanndra Yates wearing masks and black T-shirts with the words “science is real,” “black lives matter,” “no human is illegal,” “love is love,” “women’s rights are human rights” and “kindness is everything.”
The post reads, “Welcome to #IrishNation students! We are SO happy to see you! #IrishStrong”.
The post as of Sept. 15 had 69 comments. While a majority of them were in support of the shirts and the staff wearing them, a smaller number questioned the messages behind the shirt, said the staff should not be wearing them at school or said the shirts were illustrating the district’s liberal bias.
Superintendent Todd Hoadley discussed the shirts and the ensuing dialogue during the Sept. 14 Board of Education meeting.
He commended the staff members for their desire to show inclusion for all students, but said he did not want that message to be lost in the current political climate.
Tensions are heightened by the pandemic and the upcoming presidential election, Hoadley said, and social media often acts as an amplifier to create more anger and disconnect.
In an email sent at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14 to district staff, Hoadley said he appreciated staff efforts to make students feel welcome but said the district wants to ensure “your welcoming messages do not get lost in political discourse.”
“... We must not share our opinions in an attempt to bring about a single conclusion to which all students must subscribe,” Hoadley wrote in the email, referencing board policy 2211 on multicultural/inclusionary education, which states that the district “will promote inclusion, acceptance, understanding, cooperation, and appreciation of diverse groups of people.”
“That includes people who hold opinions that disagree with ours,” he said in the email.
Hoadley also referenced board policy 2240 and administrative guideline 3231A, stating that political activities are not appropriate within the school setting.
Unless done as a part of an approved teaching unit, staff members also are not allowed to display non-school related political or campaign material that supports or opposes candidates, issues or a particular point of view at school, he said in the email.
Hoadley said during the meeting that some of the messages on the shirts have different interpretations for different people.
Some read “science is real,” and thought of climate change, or evolution v. creationism, he said.
And whereas the district values its undocumented immigrants, the phrase “no human is illegal,” conjures for some the divisive issue of immigration, Hoadley said.
Regarding “love is love,” Hoadley said some have said the phrase is a statement on gay marriage, while others said it was related to pedophilia.
“We need to respect that people have different values or different interpretations of this,” he said.
During the meeting’s public comment period, community members were able to share opinions about the shirts and the conversation surrounding them.
District parent Tara Seward said the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t partisan and the idea of controversial messaging is a subjective concept. Masks have become controversial, yet they are worn in school, she said.
Seward said she applauded the staff members who wore the shirts for spreading a message of unity and acceptance.
Another parent, Kara Morgan, said students need to be prepared to interact with ideas that are different from their own.
This preparation, she said, is part of the education the district should be striving to provide.
If the district wants to stay relevant in 2020 and beyond, Morgan said, “the district cannot hide behind outdated policies.”
District parent Mimi Rivard also spoke in defense of the T-shirts.
“It’s time to be brave,” she said.
“These kids need to see someone who has their back,” she said.
In other Board of Education business, board members voted 4-1 to approve a resolution to fully implement the hybrid model of education beginning Sept. 21.
Students began school remotely Aug. 24. On Sept. 8, students not enrolled in the remote-learning academy began in-person learning orientations for a hybrid model of education, with 25% of students in buildings at a time. With board approval the full hybrid model, with 50% of students in buildings at a time, will begin Sept. 21.
Board member Scott Melody voted against the resolution, saying he thought there wasn’t enough time yet to make a decision.