Some Barbers Hill HS students, parents raise concern after district removes posters during Black History Month

Black History Month controversy: Posters pulled by Barber Hills ISD
Black History Month controversy: Posters pulled by Barber Hills ISD

MONT BELVIEU, Texas – Barbers Hill High School students and parents are raising concern on both sides of a situation regarding posters taken down by Barbers Hill ISD. While the district believes it made the best decision, other parents and students called the action offensive and discrediting.

Students and parents raised concern over Barbers Hill ISD’s decision to remove posters of Vice President Kamala Harris and Former First Lady Michelle Obama, which were originally put up by the Barbers Hill High School student council for Black History Month. Photos circulated on social media showing the posters that were taken down. In a letter to parents, Barbers Hill ISD Superintendent Dr. Greg Poole wrote to parents:

“The posters in question had campaign rhetoric intended to galvanize a political party’s base ... staff received continual complaints ... and made the decision to take them down and replace them,” the letter read.

Several students and parents voiced concern. One 17-year-old wanted to remain anonymous.

“They’re on the wall because of their skin color. It’s Black History Month. It’s not Democratic month,” the student stated.

The district said its goal is to create a politically neutral learning environment.

In the letter to parents, the superintendent wrote that the posters were “replaced ... with more positive, unifying messages.” But the student said she’s confused as the posters promote unity.

The poster of Kamala Harris had a quote stating, “Our Unity is our strength & our diversity is our power. We reject the myth of us vs. them. We are in this together.”

The poster which featured former First Lady Michelle Obama had the quote, “Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered. When they go low, we go high.”

The student said the district’s reasoning did not make sense to her.

“The posters say the word, ‘unify’... ’diversity.’ If you look at the posters yourself, the posters obviously want to unify the world. But, obviously, the kids and the parents did not like the posters because those ladies are of the Democratic party. They’re on the wall because of their skin color, because it’s Black History Month not because of the party they represent,” the student said.

The district maintained they are honoring Black History Month by sending KPRC 2 photos of posters that have been up since Feb. 1, including posters featuring Olympic Champion Simone Biles, tennis champion Serena Williams and another poster honoring African American authors.

Barber Hill ISD shows posters in high school during Black History Month. (Barber Hill ISD)

The district released a statement to parents:

“Black History Month is intended to bring appropriate and deserved recognition to African American leaders who have achieved remarkable accomplishments. It should not be used to promote either political party.”

While several parents, who did not have their names on the record, said they believe the district’s actions were fair, other parents said the district’s actions were offensive.

“I’m against them taking down the posters. There’s no reason for it. They’re trying to not step on the local public’s toes but it’s an insult to race and sexuality,” Brian McCoy said.

One student said they did not mind either way.

“I’ve been staying neutral with it since I’ve been here,” said Joshua King-Bradley, a senior.

The 17-year-old student who wished to remain anonymous said Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama deserve to be honored for their accomplishments, regardless of their political affiliation.

“If they’re not on that wall, that’s discrediting them. They worked so hard,” the student said. “(Kamala Harris is) the first African American Vice President. That shows, ‘Hey, if I can get up there, you can too.’”

Barbers Hill ISD officials maintained that its choice to take down the posters is not racist nor meant to offend.

Barbers Hill ISD released this statement to the media: 

A disagreement arose amongst Barbers Hill High School Students Friday morning

when newly displayed posters were viewed as combative and divisive. The posters in

question contained political rhetoric from conventions and speeches from the campaign

trail with the emphasis being on those political issues that still divide our county. These

posters were removed. Deputy Superintendent Sandra Duree stated, “We all know how

politically polarized our nation is right now and Barbers Hill ISD has and will continue to

keep the political discord from interfering with our mission of always providing a safe and

conducive learning environment.”