When the elderly arrived at West Broward High School last week to collect their caps and dresses, they were told they couldn’t get their yearbooks.
The reason: The deputy director ordered directory professor David Fleischer to stop selling and distributing the directory because the spread of Black Lives Matter was “too politically one-sided,” Fleischer told the administration.
“It’s censorship,” said Elise Twitchell, co-editor of Edge Yearbook on Tuesday. Twitchell was one of several editors who issued statements sharing their disappointment with school administrators. “And the fact that these are complaints from parents about the spread of Black Lives Matter is just appalling to me.”
It was Friday. On Monday, the district allowed Edge staff to continue distributing the directory, but this time with a letter from the school principal inserted.
“Please note that as a government agency, the Broward County School Board must maintain a neutral stance on all political opinions,” Principal Brad Fatout wrote in the letter. “As such, the political views expressed in the 2021 West Broward Yearbook are not sponsored by the District.”
According to a statement from Broward County Public Schools, “the school administration halted distribution on Friday afternoon while the concerns were carefully considered.”
“As the yearbook is intended to highlight notable and newsworthy events of that year, student journalists have exercised their freedom of expression by documenting the movement,” the district said. As a result of the review, directory distribution resumed Monday morning with an insert noting that as a government entity, the Broward County School Board must maintain a neutral stance on all political views. .. “
Fleischer, the yearbook teacher, was not happy with the letter, noting that “the letter was included without The Edge’s knowledge or approval.”
“The Edge believes the letter is offensive and dehumanizes non-white students in West Broward and the entire Broward County School District,” Fleischer wrote in an email addressing the West community. Broward.
In addition to student photos and other standard yearbook materials, the directory also included coverage of the 2020 presidential election, COVID-19, and the LGBTQ community. None of the other gaps were deemed “too political” by the district, according to Fleischer.
West Broward isn’t the only South Florida directory to cover protests over the death of George Floyd, the black man killed by a white Minneapolis officer who knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
The editors of the Coral Gables High yearbook also created a broadcast, titled “Power to the People,” focusing on the protests and student reaction to them in their yearbook, Cavaleon.
Howard Wasserman, professor of law at Florida International University College of Law, said that while the school can control the content of student publications, he was “glad they chose something a little silly, but which allows students to say what they wanted to say in the yearbook.
“I’m glad the school district didn’t just stop running the directory or push for content on Blue Lives Matter,” he said. “What they did was just spell it out, I think what everyone kinda knows is that this is a student publication and not the district. talking school. “
Despite the efforts of Edge staff – including trying to stop distribution of the directory with the note – the administration has not changed its position, Fleischer said.
“I am very, very proud of my students, and it has been a great learning experience for them. They took the helm, ”Fleischer said. “I’m really proud of how much they pushed this and how much they stood up for what they believe in, their publication and the student body.”