Remember, remember, November is the month for V For Vendetta stories. Bleeding Cool recently ran an article about how an elected Texan politician sent out a letter to school district boards asking which, of a list of over eight hundred books about racism, sexism, feminism and LGBTQ content, were stocked in school libraries. It included a number of graphic novels, featured on Bleeding Cool, including V For Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. The comic book tells the story of an England under the boot of a media-driven and police-imposed fascist dictatorship, written in the early eighties and inspired by the Thatcher government of the day. Last week, a school in Muncie, Indiana, had an English Literature class in which they read V For Vendetta and pupils were asked to find aspects of the modern world that this related to, and created a poster board to show these. This is not an uncommon exercise, I recall doing something very similar at high school, with Macbeth,
As which point, the school security stated that these posters were offensive to them, the teacher's position is now questioned and the posters were taken down. As a British person I was confused by the role of the school security in this, but after research I now understand that these are known as student resource officers, that they are not controlled by the school themselves, but a part of the local police authority, and my mind is blown that this is a thing.Vice Press, reporting this story, states "School resource officers are armed career cops that are assigned to schools—they have the authority to make arrests, and even use Tasers and batons on children if they see fit to do so (including even for bad grades and tardiness). Their presence in schools has increased since the 1990s, even as human rights groups like the ACLU claim that SROs disproportionately target students of color and students with disabilities."
One of the students, Quinneth Bouton posted video of the school security confronting students about the display, and a following thread;
He continued writing;
Our teacher, Mrs O'Connor provided us with a poster board and had us associate it to real world things. We were allowed to choose anything from womens rights to religion, police brutality, and racism. Most of her classes decided to link the book to the Black Lives Matter movement, as you can see in the videos and images provided. Upon which she was pulled from our classroom by the schools security and was told it was offensive and that our research was false despite credited resources on each and every poster on the lockers. They insisted that it's not all cops (Obviously!) and that by spreading the word of this it was teaching our students wrongly. She is now (rumoredly) at a threat to potentially lose her job for allowing us to write on such topics. Keep in mind they also spewed information about All Lives Matter in defense and tried to talk on Blue lives and insisted they were not in any way racist. We are now trying, as students of Muncie Central Highschool, to defend not only ourselves but our peers and continue to make this a safe space to express ourselves and our views. Black lives matter and always will, and we should be allowed to express our opinions. We are protected under the first amendment and choose to continue to speak up.
Peaceful protests held by students, in support of the teacher and against the removal of the posters, has led to Muncie Central High School moving to remote learning for Tuesday. The school stated that things would return to normal on Wednesday, but the school remained enacting e-learning until yesterday. Bouton told local station WIBC that students are planning on writing to the attorney general and are demanding a personal apology from the security officers involved. They are also raising money to print T-Shirts for the affected students in solidarity.
A letter has been sent to parents, stating that in-person learning will continue today.
"Dear Students, Families and Friends,
As you know, a group of students led a peaceful protest at school on Monday stemming from some posters that were displayed in a hallway last week. This was an opportunity for them to have their voice heard on a number of different issues. School and district officials were able to hear their concerns and have a constructive conversation.
It is our intent to have students feel secure and respected when they are at school. This means every student, not just those who feel aggrieved or are passionate about a particular issue. Moreover, in order for our educational mission and responsibilities to be met, prolonged disruptions need to be limited. As such, we are working to balance the educational needs and responsibilities of all of our students with the concerns raised by those who were protesting on Monday.
As we strike this balance, MCS realizes the importance of addressing the concerns brought to light by the events of the past several days and commits to do the following:
- Investigate the current incident thoroughly.
- Provide appropriate accountability.
- Immediately commence ongoing group discussions about the issues involved with assistance from a professional facilitator from Ball State. This effort will include students, parents, teachers and administrators in an effort to provide for an airing of all issues and the development of appropriate remedies.
- Continue ongoing diversity, sensitivity and implicit bias training of all MCS staff, including monthly reporting on all such activities to the MCS Board.
- Provide a means for students to register additional complaints with MCS Administration.
- Continue operating transparently, sharing pertinent information taking into consideration privacy and confidentiality rights of students, parents and MCS staff.
With regard to our return to in-person instruction, in order to ensure school safety for all and to permit the educational process to move forward, there will be no more in-school protests allowed. However, the Muncie Human Rights Commission has organized a peaceful protest to take place after school on November 23. Protestors will march to City Hall and back to Central's football field. Once we return to in-person schooling, if students decide to protest in a disruptive manner when they should be in class, they will face appropriate disciplinary action. MCS has worked hard to be an inclusive school system where everyone is valued and respected, and we plan to keep it that way. Thank you for your support!
The irony of a police force that patrols the hallways of local schools, acting to take down an English literature project that criticises the overreach of police, in the month of November and inspired by V For Vendetta, does seem to have reached peak irony for the year. But of course we still have a month-and-a-half left. I note that the Comic Book Legal Defense fund is already taking interest in this issue.