The event was planned for Friday and was designed to present black men in a positive light.
A Friday event at Seattle’s John Muir Elementary where teachers planned to wear Black Lives Matter shirts has been canceled because of a potential security threat to the students.
The elementary school had scheduled a celebration called “Black Men Uniting to Change the Narrative,” where more than 100 black men would gather outside and greet students as they walked into the building, with the goal of dispelling stereotypes. A similar event was held at South Shore K-8 last school year.
Teachers had planned to wear shirts that featured the school’s name along with “We Stand Together” and “Black Lives Matter.” Several local news outlets published stories about the teachers’ plans, which were then picked up by conservative national outlets such as Fox News, Breitbart and the Daily Caller.
On Friday morning, several people still showed up and high-fived students as they arrived. Meanwhile, at Leschi Elementary, community members and teachers high-fived and cheered for students who were walking into the building. Leschi teachers wore shirts that said “Leschi (Hearts) Black Lives.”
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John Muir received at least one threatening call related to the event, district spokesman Luke Duecy said. The district decided to cancel after consulting with Seattle police and the district’s safety and security staff.
At least one local story included a parent who said he wasn’t informed about the shirts, and that he had concerns about it. John Muir PTA President Amy Zern said all parents were informed, and that the community had embraced both the event and the teachers’ plans.
“There was a plan in how to discuss this in an age-appropriate way, and in our community, there’s been nothing but support,” Zern said. “It’s awful to see this reaction.”
Parents saw that there was a lot of “national hatred” in comments posted on stories about their school, she said.
About half of John Muir’s 400 students in kindergarten through fifth grade are black. About 20 percent are white, and 10 percent each are Hispanic, Asian or two or more races. The school sees its diversity as an asset, Zern said.
“My white child is absolutely ready to embrace the idea that some folks are not being treated the same as some other folks,” she said. “It’s not a surprise to her 9-year-old mind. She sees it.”
Police will have a visible presence at the school Friday, the Police Department said Thursday evening. Several police officers attended the 100 Black Men event at South Shore in February and will come to the formal event at John Muir if it’s rescheduled.
The Seattle Education Association said in a statement Thursday that it supports the teachers at both elementary schools and applauds the shirts as “an act of community solidarity.”
“The Seattle Education Association believes that closing the opportunity gap for black and brown students is essential to our educational mission,” the teachers union wrote in a statement. “In standing with the Black Lives Matter movement, educators at John Muir and Leschi elementary schools are engaging with and supporting students and their families on issues of race and equity that critically affect their daily lives.”
The schedule for Friday included the men high-fiving students as they walked into the building, then small groups of men joining the students in their classroom and at recess.
More than 200 men came to the South Shore event to show students examples of successful black politicians, police officers and professors. Among those in the greeting line were Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell, Fire Chief Harold Scoggins and Seattle School Board Director Stephan Blanford.