CHAMPAIGN — A few weeks after the Champaign school district directed a Westview Elementary teacher to take down a Black Lives Matter sign from a classroom window, Unit 4 board members unanimously approved a statement authorizing the signs to be used by the district.
The statement of affirmation ties a specific sign that reads “Resolution 2020: Black Lives Matter in CUSD #4” to the board’s unanimous vote in June to declare racism a public health crisis, President Amy Armstrong said Monday night.
“This truly had to be board work for us to send the message out,” she said. “We dotted our Is and crossed our Ts. We made sure that we have the legs to stand on, if someone challenges this.”
The vote was preceded by a march Monday afternoon from Westview to the Mellon Administration Center organized by the Black Teachers Alliance — CU in support of Black Lives Matter.
The district ordered the public-facing sign to be taken down after its lawyer said keeping it up could open the door to speech the district doesn’t agree with.
The teacher who put it up, alongside a much larger “We Got This” sign — Abby Crull — decried the “whitewashed legal system” that deemed the Black Lives Matter sign political.
“The sign was intended to affirm Black and Brown children and their families as they pass by our classroom,” she said at Monday’s meeting. “The insinuation that this sign is a political statement, coupled with public pressure to be politically neutral, is dangerous.
“Neutrality only serves the oppressors.”
Armstrong said no one was punished for the Black Lives Matter sign and that similar signs were already in classrooms.
“There’s allyship signals all over our schools within there, and a lot of those were student initiatives,” she said. “And no one was disciplined for the sign that was facing outward. It was just that it took time to get through the process.”
Board member Bruce Brown said that the sign needs to be followed by results.
“This feels like a victory, definitely, and I’m not going to diminish that at all,” he said. “But the proof in the pudding is gonna be how our schools, and how our vision, transforms to make sure that achievement becomes a priority.”
The achievement gap between Black and White students in Unit 4 was highlighted Monday as the district’s new strategic plan was presented.
It showed that in English-language arts, 9 percent of Black students are proficient, compared to 50 percent of White students.
And in math, 6 percent of Black students are proficient, compared to 48 percent of White students.
“When people ask why we want this sign and why we wanted the resolution, this is why,” Armstrong said.