Just one week before a mass shooting would launch their school into the national spotlight, students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School put on a Black History Month show at the Parkland, Fla., school. In a last-minute, unrehearsed addition, black student organizers wanted to address a letter that had appeared in the school’s newspaper.
Titled “All Lives Matter,” the student-penned letter had harsh words for the Black Lives Matter movement, calling it “ridiculous” and “good for nothing but creating mistrust between civilians and police.”
As WLRN-TV reports, black students at the school had planned on rebutting the letter in the school paper but saw the show, held on Feb. 9, as another, timely opportunity to speak to the importance and legitimacy of the BLM movement.
But their message was shut down. Reporter Nadege Green, speaking to the students who had organized the response, writes that a teacher had the speaker’s mic cut off and “asked the student to leave the stage before she could finish it.”
The response, students say, highlighted a painful double standard in the way the school’s black students have been treated in the wake of the Feb. 14 shooting, which has launched some of their white peers into the national stage as anti-gun-violence activists.
“When we tried to talk about it, it was a problem,” Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a junior at MSD, said.
Another student, Kyrah Simon, who watched the show, said the school “just didn’t handle [the speech] in the way that I thought would be compassionate to all the minorities.”
When asked about the incident, a Broward County Public Schools spokesperson told WLRN via email that the Black Lives Matter message was “an unapproved presentation that was not rehearsed as part of the show,” writes the local news outlet.
“Due to the potential for disruption and breach in protocol, the student was asked to stop and leave the stage,” the emailed statement read, adding that MSD “is committed to providing learning environments that foster inclusion and respect.”
The gap in treatment between themselves and their white peers prompted a group of black MSD students to hold a press conference late last month to call attention to forms of gun violence they felt had been ignored in the national, post-Parkland conversation: police shootings, neighborhood shootings and domestic violence.
They told reporters that several safety measures that had been implemented at the school since the shooting, including an increased armed police presence, had left them feeling less safe and more vulnerable to harassment and attacks from law enforcement. The students also emphasized that they supported and considered themselves one with the March for Our Lives movement, but wanted to make sure their voices were heard as well.
Tyah-Amoy Roberts, who spoke at the March press conference, told WLRN that black students around the country have been calling attention to gun violence for years.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has been addressing this topic since the murder of Trayvon Martin, since 2012,” Roberts said. “Yet we’ve never seen this kind of support for our cause. And we surely do not feel that the lives or voices of minorities are as valued as our white counterparts.”