T-shirts continue to be hot topic for Dublin City Schools

Sarah Sole
ThisWeek group
Dublin Scioto High School teacher Scott Marple, left,, principal Bob Scott and assistant principal Leanndra Yates were included in this photo posted Sept. 10 on the school's Twitter account. The politically oriented statements on the T-shirts have prompted a debate in the community.

Parents gathered Sept. 29 outside the Dublin City Schools office on 5175 Emerald Parkway to dispute administrative decisions prohibiting T-shirts worn earlier this month by district staff members. 

A school board meeting was held the same evening.

Lily Cunningham, one of the organizers of the protest against the district's decision, said about two dozen people gathered outside the building during a school board meeting.

“We are here to show that Dublin is inclusive, and that staff and educators should be able to show that they support the diverse student body that makes up enrollment in Dublin City Schools,” Cunningham said.  

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 messages “Science is real,” “Black lives matter,” “No human is illegal,” “Love is love,” “Women’s rights are human rights” and “Kindness is everything.”

The tweet said, “Welcome to #IrishNation students! We are SO happy to see you! #IrishStrong."

In an email sent at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 14 to district staff members, Superintendent Todd 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.”

Unless done as a part of an approved teaching unit, staff members are not allowed to display nonschool-related political or campaign material that supports or opposes candidates, issues or a particular point of view at school, he wrote in the email.

During the Sept. 29 school board meeting, Hoadley said anything that could be considered political is exacerbated in an election season. The messages on the T-shirts, he said, were viewed differently by people based on their own experiences.  

“Who’s right?” he asked.

Aside from classroom discussions, district staff members are not to debate society or serve as an extension of culture wars or political debates, Hoadley said. The Dublin community is divided over these issues, he said.

“We simply seek to give our students safe harbor from these choppy seas,” he said.  

Many people found the statements on the shirts to be controversial and political, he said. 

“These are not views held by Dublin City Schools, but they are views held by some in our community,” he said.

If the district did take a side, Hoadley said, it could divide the community further and undermine the district’s ability to provide students with a well-rounded education, he said.

“Equity and inclusion are a mainstay of our vision but so is tolerance for different points of view,” he said.

During the meeting, several community members said they were concerned about the district’s handling of the situation.

Julia Gilliam, another protest organizer, said comments from the community against the shirts’ message are "repulsive and dangerous." By repeating these statements, the district is valuing those messages over the well-being and safety of students, she said. 

Gilliam told ThisWeek her primary concern is the students. She said she wants the school board to know the voices of students matter.

“So we should listen to them,” she said.

Board member Lynn May said she and her colleagues are listening to students. She said she wished that parents would “have a little bit of patience with us and give us a chance.”

Last week, board members met with Scott’s principal-advisory group of Scioto students, May said. Soon, they plan to listen to LGBTQ students from all three high schools, she said. 

“When we say we’re going to do something, we’re going to do it,” she said.

In a potentially related incident, dozens of rainbow and Black Lives Matter flags appeared the morning of Sept. 29 on the grounds of Emerald Campus, 5175 Emerald Parkway.

District spokesman Doug Baker said district leaders do not know who placed them along Emerald Parkway.

As of Sept. 29, Baker said, he was unaware of any plans by the district to remove them.

ThisWeek could not identify any individuals or groups taking credit for placing the flags, but a representative of a local political-action committee, Diversity for Ohio Schools president Christine Foster, sent an unsolicited statement about them.

The group's statement did not identify who placed the flags but said the flags were supporting marginalized students.

"We applaud this peaceful act of support for Dublin students and teachers," Foster said. "Dublin City Schools deserves a board of education and a superintendent that will stand up for human rights. Diversity for Ohio Schools PAC will continue to fight for equality and inclusivity in our Dublin schools."

ssole@thisweeknews.com 

@ThisWeekSarah