Students accuse teachers of pressure to support Black Lives Matter movement
Tensions surrounding a recent Black Lives Matter event at a Federal Way high school — after the violent arrest of a black student — spilled over into the Federal Way School Board’s meeting Tuesday night.
Parents and students debated the merits of the event last week at Todd Beamer High School, where students were encouraged by the school’s Black Student Union to wear all black to school for a day to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Some students told KIRO 7 that some Todd Beamer teachers encouraged students to wear black.
Some of those who chose not to participate said they were called racists and ridiculed. Freshman student Ellie Mae Hanie told KIRO 7 she chose not to participate partially because of the incident that seemed to inspire the event.
“It started after a girl was arrested during a fight,” Hanie said. Federal Way Police confirm that a female student resisted being restrained by a school resource officer — who is also a Federal Way police officer.
According to a statement from Federal Way Police, the student “Resisted the school resource officer by kicking and swinging.” Students who witnessed the incident say the student, who is black, punched the officer, who is white, in the head during the arrest.
Since the incident, the Federal Way School District asked Federal Way police to reassign the officer out of the school, citing “compatibility issues.”
A Federal Way police spokesperson told KIRO 7 the officer did nothing wrong.
After the arrest, Hanie said one of her teachers spent the next two periods talking about the arrest, and the Black Lives Matter movement.
In both of those periods, back to back, we sat there for four hours and only talked about why Black Lives Matter,” Hanie said.
Hanie and her mother decided to speak out, after they say a teacher encouraged students to join the “black-out” wearing all black clothing the next day.
“The teachers handed out stickers that said Black Lives Matter, and encouraged all students on Friday to wear all black in support of that movement,” Hanie said.
Hanie said she was among the students who decided not to wear black, or wear a sticker.
“They were called racists,” said Angela Wilcox, Hanie’s mother. “They were ridiculed, they were afraid, many did not want to speak out.”
Hanie spoke to the Federal Way school board publicly Tuesday: “I still don’t understand why we were told to wear black to show support for this girl who has assaulted police officers more than just last week,” she said.
The Federal Way School District told KIRO 7 that teachers are not allowed to encourage studens to support political causes. District director of communications Kassie Swenson says the event was not sanctioned by the school.
“The communication around wearing all black to school, that was something that was communicated by the Black Student Union, and the students represented in that club,” Swenson said.
Swenson also encouraged parents who feel they were pressured wrongly by teachers should report it.
They should speak to an administrator so we can investigate, and go from there,” Swenson said.