School has student turn BLM shirt inside out, Ardmore mother upset by decision

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

A Black Lives Matter shirt worn by an Ardmore elementary student last week prompted a school employee to have that shirt turned inside out.

That parent now believes the action was arbitrary and unnecessary but the school superintendent said similar action has already been taken this year for somewhat similar infractions in order to avoid unnecessary disruptions in the classroom.

The parent decided to challenging the district with even more Black Lives Matter shirts.

Two Ardmore students, their faces distorted to protect their identity, wear Black Lives Matter shirts in the parking lot of an Ardmore elementary school Wednesday, May 5, 2021. An Ardmore parents is upset that a school official told her son to turn his shirt inside out during the school day on Friday and has since been challenging the school.

The parent — who is not being identified by The Ardmoreite to protect the privacy of the children involved —  said she found out after work on Friday evening that her 8-year-old son was told to turn his Black Lives Matter shirt inside out during the school day. On Monday, the parent spoke with school staff at Charles Evans Elementary School and said she was not told what section of the school handbook her son had violated. 

Instead, she said she was told that her son had to turn the shirt inside out because of politics. 

“I told her (the principal) Black Lives Matter has nothing to do with politics and my son is eight, he knows nothing about politics,” the parent said on Tuesday. 

The parent claims she was told that any further discussion would have to be with Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland and the pair met later on Monday. 

“I got in touch with him, met with him, we had a 40-minute conversation. I asked him to show me in the policy dress code where it said he couldn’t wear it, he said it wasn’t in there,” the parent said. 

According to the 2020-2021 Elementary Schools handbook on the district’s website, principals make final decisions regarding dress code. The 9-point section on dress code only mentions that shirts and tops with “saying or logos” should be school appropriate and in good taste. 

Holland said that the parent was offended by a principal having her son turn the shirt inside out on Friday and that the pair could not come to an agreement on Monday regarding the apparel. 

“It’s our interpretation of not creating a disturbance in school. I don’t want my kids wearing MAGA hats or Trump shirts to school either because it just creates, in this emotionally charged environment, anxiety and issues that I don’t want our kids to deal with,” Holland said. 

Holland recalled cases from the middle school early in the year and said there were likely similar cases at other schools across the district. “Most of it has not been an issue until this lady here has been angry about it and I wish she weren’t so upset,” Holland said. 

According to the parent, her Monday meeting with Holland ended with the understanding that her children would not actually be punished if they returned in Black Lives Matter shirts. The parent claimed to have a recording of the full meeting with Holland but declined to provide a copy on Tuesday. 

“I asked him what would be done if I sent him to school in a Black Lives Matter shirt, and he told me that there was nothing that could be done if they respectfully refuse to wear their shirt inside out,” the parent said. 

Her three sons left for school on Tuesday in Black Lives Matter shirts and a note declining to remove their shirts or turn them inside out. According to photos she shared on Facebook, each shirt was a different color with the words “Black Lives Matter” encircling an illustrated fist.   

Her younger children were sent to the principal’s office at their elementary schools to do school work for the day. Her oldest at Ardmore Middle School said his day was not impacted by the shirt, according to the parent.

On Wednesday, the parent and a small group of supporters met outside one of her sons' elementary school. She and one of her sons were in the parking lot of his elementary school with at least six supporters including a virtual middle school student. At least two other supporters had come and gone between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m.

Black Lives Matter supporters stand in front of an Ardmore elementary school Wednesday, May 5, 2021, to protest recent school actions against students wearing Black Lives Matter shirts,

Her son was in the parking lot briefly and told her and reporters that he had not been asked to turn his shirt inside out. According to social media posts, the group remained outside the school for at least 45 minutes.

The parent claimed that she didn't want to pressure her sons into challenging their school principals and added that issues prompted by the murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer in May 2020 are discussed in her home. 

“I watch this stuff with them. I break stuff down to them real well. They know what’s going on in the world as far as Black Lives Matter goes,” she said. 

Holland said the three students were not in any trouble and described them all as “wonderful.” He said the issue may cause the board of education to review the dress code further.

The mother said she’s not looking at pursuing any sort of legal action but hopes that school officials can better understand why her family would wear Black Lives Matter apparel.

“The way they made my son feel on Friday, they treated him so wrong and they don’t see it,” she said.