Racial tensions at a Valley high school caused students to walk out of classes on Monday.
More than a dozen black students at Buckeye Union High School said administrators are treating them unfairly. The controversy started last week when two students were reportedly told to take off their “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts or go home for the day.
Buckeye Senior Genesis Santoyo said she and another student were both called into the school office and instructed to remove their BLM shirts last week.
“I called my father down to the office and we spoke with the principal,” Genesis Santoyo, a Buckeye Union High School senior, said. “The principal clearly told us it's always going to be what the majority wants.”
Buckeye sophomore Mariah Havard said she was the other student asked to remove her shirt. She said the problems started after a white student picked an argument with her the day she wore her BLM shirt two weeks ago.
“He said that my shirt didn't matter and that black lives don't matter,” Havard said. “And I thought that he was completely wrong so I tried my best to tell him that black lives do matter.”
Since then, several of the protesting students said they’ve been bullied and threatened.
Buckeye police confirmed they have investigated threats at the school, but didn’t find any that were specific or credible.
Eric Godfrey, the Buckeye Union High School District Superintendent, was not available for an interview when contacted by ABC15 Monday afternoon.
However, when reached by email, he released the following statement:
“The district is aware of the peaceful protest adjacent to our campus today. In regards to the reasons they protested you will have to ask the organizers. The district is working with staff, local leaders, and black lives matters representatives to develop a plan to turn the incident involving the black lives matter T-shirt from a negative situation into a positive learning experience. This is an excellent opportunity to teach tolerance, understanding, and acceptance for the diverse learners that make up BUHSD. This will be a process and not happen overnight. It will take the support of all involved and from the communities we serve. BUHSD is committed to the success of all students.”
Godfrey would not respond to specific questions about how the school is handling the controversy or the allegations of the protesting students.
Another statement—this one posted to the school’s website—did provide limited insight on how the school is handling the situation:
“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.”