An Oklahoma mom said her 8-year-old son was punished for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt to school.
Ben Stapleton, a third grader at Charles Evans Elementary School in Ardmore, was told by the principal during gym class to turn his Black Lives Matter shirt inside-out on April 30.
“It made me mad and sad,” he told KXII. “They pulled me out of P.E. and told me to put my shirt inside out and then I started playing.”
Ben’s mother, Jordan Herbert, said she contacted the school on Monday and was told by the superintendent that her son would not have been punished if he’d refused to flip the shirt inside-out. However, she suggested administrators took advantage of the fact that Ben was young to coerce him.
“Y’all know he knows nothing about politics or his rights, so y’all make him turn it inside out because you don’t like it,” Herbert said.
Herbert wrote on Facebook that she was initially told the shirt was not allowed because political views can’t be expressed on clothing worn in school .
“My son is 8, he has no idea about politics,” Herbert wrote. “Wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt has NOTHING to do with politics. He’s simply saying his life matters.”
On Tuesday, Herbert decided to send all three of her sons to school in Black Lives Matter shirts, and sent a note along with them declining to have their shirts turned inside-out. She shared an image of the brothers on Facebook.
According to Herbert, Ben and his 5-year-old brother Rodney were kicked out of class and forced to remain in the principal’s office for the rest of the day. Herbert’s oldest son, Jaelon, who is in middle school, was not punished. Ben missed recess, tutoring, and ate lunch separately.
In an interview with McClatchy News, Herbert called the punishment “modern day segregation.”
Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Kim Holland spoke to the The Daily Ardmorite about the dress code.
“It’s our interpretation of not creating a disturbance in school,” Holland told the newspaper. “I don’t want my kids wearing MAGA hats or Trump shirts to school either because it just creates, in this emotionally charged environment, anxiety and issues that I don’t want our kids to deal with.”
The dress code makes no explicit mention of politics but says the principal has the final say about what is appropriate. According to Holland, it’s normal for students to be sent to the principal’s office for inappropriate clothing.
“Most of it has not been an issue until this lady here has been angry about it, and I wish she weren’t so upset,” Holland said.
Herbert, her sons and several other members of the school community gathered outside of the elementary school on Wednesday to protest the school’s handling of the matter.
Some parents posted images to Facebook of their children heading off to the school in Black Lives Matter shirts to show their support.
Herbert said she isn’t looking into legal action, but she wants school officials to understand why her family wears Black Lives Matter clothing.
She shared on Facebook on Friday that her son was targeted by students at the school who told him his life didn’t matter on Thursday. Herbert said she is in contact with the principal regarding the incident.