Rahaf Othman, a popular teacher in Richards High School, was slammed on Twitter after posting a picture of the Black Lives Matter flag on her wall with the caption "my background for the Zoom sessions."
When lessons started on Monday in CHSD 218 high schools, the BLM flag was gone from Rahaf Othman's Zoom background, and in its place was a neutral cream color.
Othman tweeted the picture from her school Twitter account and it was quickly shared on social media platforms prompting scathing comments, many left on one neighborhood Facebook group — known for supporting President Trump and the police — directed at the Othman’s Arab American and Muslim background.
A number of commenters claimed they were parents of Richards’ students, and wrote that their kids were being brainwashed and indoctrinated by the left, and that their points were docked if they expressed their "conservative" views in school.
Some of the comments read:
"I don't want blm crap or this lgbt crap being [taught] to my child …"
"[W]e all better come together to stop this divide that islam and the demonRats our creating to turn America into a [explective] just like the country they come from …"
"Good, I hope she just sits there while the students loot, vandalize, and torch her class room."
Many parents, current students and alumni quickly defended Othman, stating that she was one of Richards' "most supportive teachers." A recent Richards’ graduate started a Change.org petition demanding that the district drop its "neutrality" on BLM by letting Othman to rehang her flag. The petition has over 2,700 signatures.
The petition reads: "District 218 has a large number of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) students, and it is very important that these students feel supported and included at school. A good way to do this would be to show our support for Black Lives Matter and show that D218 will fight for its students - no matter what. It is very alarming that we have such a high number of community members not in support of the BLM Movement since many Black students attend Richards. School should offer a safe space for students, and we cannot do this without showing our unconditional support, no matter who or what race you are."
According to Othman's supporters, the D218's "neutral background" policy for teachers was only implemented after Othman’s tweet because school officials were pressured by "racist" community members.
Dr. Ty Harting, the superintendent of schools, did not respond to an email asking when the neutral background policy came into effect. However, he posted a statement on the Richards High School Facebook page, stating that the neutral background policy for students and teachers was being considered prior to Othman's tweet.
"This directive was, ironically, coming from an equity perspective," Harting said.
Harting also stated that the district had received many emails supporting Othman, as well opposition emails that he called "respectful and reasonable in their arguments that teachers should not be imposing their views on students in the classroom."
"Finally, we also received other emails in opposition — including some extreme ones that were racist in nature," he wrote. "This is the world we live in — a world in which there is angry opposition to almost any opinion. We seem to be losing the ability to have meaningful dialogue about sensitive issues."
Othman did not wish to be interviewed but referred to a post on her personal Facebook page which explained how she's done her best to advocate for her students for the past 23 years. She tweeted a photo of herself wearing a "Black Lives Matter In School" T-shirt on Tuesday, and captioned the post: "I am overwhelmed from the love and support they have given me over the last few days. I have cried (good tears) and laughed from all of their comments and posts … If anything, this experience has taught me that I'm doing it right. I will ALWAYS advocate for my students—and that will never change. After all, it's why I became a teacher."
The CHSD 218 school board has a meeting scheduled at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 20. Due to COVID-19 concerns, the meeting will be held via Zoom and is open to the public.
Sources: America Now