East Ridge Middle School Principal Christy Drake issued an apology Monday after community members expressed outrage and confusion as social media posts circulated with screenshots of an email newsletter that states the school's theme for Black History Month will be "All Lives Matter."
In recent years, the term "All Lives Matter' has drawn controversy as a counter to the phrase "Black Lives Matter."
Many see the term as reactionary and as seeking to discount efforts to bring greater awareness to specific modern and historic concerns and injustices toward the Black community. But Drake, who is Black, said she meant only to highlight a phrase from a mural that shows the diversity of the school.
A portion of the new email sent to families reads as follows:
"I want to apologize for not more fully considering the context of that theme, as my inspiration for it was taken from a mural within our school that states 'Where Every Child Matters.'
"As a black woman in leadership, I embrace civil rights, Black History Month and the sacrifices that have been made by those who came before me. I hope that my students, many of whom look like me, believe in the possibilities of their unlimited potential."
Read the original newsletter from East Ridge Middle School hereView
Email apology from Principal Christy DrakeView
According to the Tennessee Department of Education's School Report Card, 34.9 % of the middle school's students are Black, while white students make up 27.2% of the population, Hispanic students 36% and Asian students 1.6%.
School parent Jessica Arnold posted a picture of the original newsletter on Facebook after emailing the school's principal about her concerns as a white parent, seeking to better educate herself on racial inequalities. Her post now has more than 100 shares.
"It was kind of a slap in the face to me," she said. "I can't even imagine how a person of color would look at it and how they would feel ... It would be bad enough that they did it anytime. But the fact that they announced 'Ooo it's Black History Month, and we're gonna say this' it's just like, unbelievable."
Arnold provided the Times Free Press with the correspondence that shows Drake responded by mentioning the mural that hangs in the middle school that reads "Every student matters" in 15 languages, and she wrote that the school works to celebrate all races and ethnicities.
"We are trying to educate our children to do better and be better than we were ... That's what I'm trying to do with my kids. I want [my daughter] to understand that people are different and that's OK," Arnold said. "I feel like we've made progress lately ... but I think it's unacceptable for any kind of educator or government ... This to me is a step backward. I feel like they marginalized the 34% of their student population by doing that."
Contact Tierra Hayes at email@example.com.