The trouble started for Mariah Harvard two weeks ago, when she wore a Black Lives Matter t-shirt to her suburban Phoenix high school. A white student approached her and told her that "black lives don't matter" and "that shirt is meaningless."
After that encounter, Harvard decided she would wear the shirt again for picture day, but the Buckeye Union High School administration had other plans. They banned Harvard from wearing the shirt. Local TV station ABC 15 reported that another student, senior Genesis Santoyo, was also prevented from wearing a BLM shirt and was told to change or go home.
In a Facebook post, Harvard said she was taken to the principal's office and told that her shirt was creating "a disruption in the learning of education." She was given a plain white shirt to wear instead.
Santoyo told ABC 15 that she had also spoken to the principal with her father present. "The principal clearly told us it's always going to be what the majority wants," she said.
The administration isn't the only ones giving the teens trouble. Harvard's mother Roxanne told AZCentral.com the girls have received threats since taking their stand.
"They have made death threats to the students here on Snapchat, Facebook, social media," Roxanne Havard told AZCentral. "The students that have made these threats have not had any consequences."
But the girls are not entirely alone. About a dozen students joined a walkout on Monday morning to protest the administration's handling of the incident. The students, along with some of their parents, stood outside the school chanting slogans and waving signs that read "Vision for Black Lives."
A statement released by Eric Godfrey, the Buckeye Union High School District Superintendent, did not directly mention the cause of the protest, but said that the school was working on turning it into a "positive learning experience." Another statement posted to the school's website elaborated a bit on the problem from the district's perspective.
“There has been recent media coverage surrounding the district's enforcement of dress code policy. The Buckeye Union High School District is committed to student learning and campus safety, and will continue to enforce school policy to ensure a safe and successful learning environment. In regards to the specific situation, the district strives to remain politically neutral while still allowing student expression. However, when these expressions interfere with the learning process and become a potential danger to students, they have to be addressed. We appreciate the community's support and will make every effort to offer the best educational programs and opportunities for all students.”
It's not clear how the shirt was a "potential danger to students" other than the way that all clothing is a potential choking hazard. In which case there's a lot more dangerous clothing disrupting the learning environment out there.