A San Antonio charter school teacher was recently fired for wearing a “Black Lives Matter” mask. Although Great Hearts Western Hills deemed this message inappropriate for a teacher to wear, Hays County Independent School District and Wimberley Independent School District do not have similar views on the matter.
“Nothing in the Hays CISD dress code,” wrote Tim Savoy, chief communications officer at Hays CISD, “would prohibit staff or students from wearing apparel including facem asks, with either the Black Lives Matter or LGBTQ logos or insignia. Hays CISD strives to be an inclusive and safe environment for all. The district believes that the least possible restriction, in terms of dress code, is the most conducive to allowing people the freedom to express themselves.”
Beyond what the dress code allows for staff and students, Black Lives Matter is not considered a political statement, and those who stand behind it believe it is a humanitarian one.
Andre Segura, legal director for the ACLU of Texas, spoke on behalf of students and teachers who want to wear clothing representing BLM. Students and teachers have different rules when it comes to what they can wear in a school setting. A teacher represents the school, therefore their expression is more restricted than a student’s.
Still, when it comes to BLM, because it is an apolitical statement, teachers should not be restricted from depicting it on their attire.
Segura argues that BLM is part of the educational curriculum; it is a movement people have seen unfold over the last few years and one that conveys a humanitarian message. Race is also part of the country’s historical and current context. Additionally, school is a place to foster critical thinking and opens room for this debate, if there is any on the matter, Segura explained.
By banning BLM, it essentially says that statement is too controversial, then what message is being sent to Black students, Segura said.
While Hays CISD and Wimberley ISD have not put anything in place to ban BLM clothing, this year, Wimberley ISD sent out a letter for students that restricts part of their attire which is not typically included in the dress code guide.
“In an effort to reduce additional stressors and distractions and maintain a positive educational setting for all our students,” the letter reads, “we’re encouraging and asking you to not allow your students to wear political attire to school or at any events on campus. This includes clothing, masks, etc.”
Wimberley ISD decided to send this letter out to eliminate disruptive behaviors, especially since this is an election year.
It would be distracting if a student wore a derogatory shirt about a candidate, but a shirt that simply states a candidate’s name, like Biden Harris, or Trump Pence, would not be considered distracting. This does not include BLM because the movement has no political affiliation.
When it comes to teacher and staff dress code, Wimberley ISD asks that employee dress and grooming be clean, neat and appropriate to the assignment. From there, different campuses might have further requests and add-ons to the district’s dress code.
“From my understanding,” said Allen Bruggman, communications officer at Wimberley ISD, “campuses have the autonomy to take that a step further if they wish. I think many use the student dress code as a baseline, with the thought that we wouldn’t allow staff to present themselves in a way that we’re not allowing our students to.”