Montpelier High School’s plan to fly a Black Lives Matter flag throughout the month of February has garnered plenty of attention — not all positive.
The school received “some not-so-nice phone calls and some not-so-nice emails” from non-Vermonters after recent news about the decision went national, said principal Mike McRaith.
Closer to home, state Rep. Tom Terenzini (R-Rutland) told WPTZ-TV that he considers BLM an anti-police group. “I don’t see myself as being a bigot or prejudiced, but I just don’t think that Black Lives Matter is a national organization to look up to,” he told the TV station.
About 5 percent of the 350 students at the public high school are black. A group called the Racial Justice Alliance approached the school board in January to suggest the flag be displayed in recognition of Black History Month. The gesture would also demonstrate the school’s commitment to equitable education for black students and help the community show that it recognizes “white privilege and implicit bias.”
The board voted unanimously to fly the banner just below the American flag outside the school. McRaith said he believes MHS will be the first high school in the nation to hoist it.
The University of Vermont did so in 2016, but a student stole the flag and was later disciplined for it.
“Our black students are really leading the way on this work and helping us understand the work that we need to do as a system and as a predominately white community,” McRaith said.
Brian Ricca, the superintendent of Montpelier Public Schools, acknowledged that not everyone will agree with the decision, but he hopes it sparks constructive conversation.
“We want to make change,” he said.