On June 8, Des Moines Public Schools posted the words “Black Lives Matter” on signs in front of schools throughout the city. At the June 16 School Board meeting, vice chair Dwana Bradley shared the following statement about the significance of this statement.

When some people read “Black Lives Matter,” they add a word that isn’t there. They read: ONLY Black Lives Matter. And so they respond and ask: why can’t we say All Lives Matters? Sadly, until the day comes when we honestly address the issues of race in this country … until the day comes when people are no longer killed because of the color of their skin … until the day comes when the systemic racism that exists at too many levels of our society is gone … until the day comes when Black lives really do matter … then there will never be a day when all lives matter.

A little over a week ago, we added the words Black Lives Matter to every sign in front of our school buildings. It was both a symbolic gesture as well as an important message, a reminder that we will do all we can to be an antiracist school district, from our focus on equity to the community conversations we are having this week. You see, at Des Moines Public Schools, nearly two-thirds of our students are students of color. More than one out of five is Black. As our community and nation debates and protests over racial injustices, these are not abstract issues for our students. These are issues that have directly impacted too many of them, their families, friends and classmates. The question isn’t, why does Des Moines Public Schools say “Black Lives Matter.” The question is, why doesn’t everybody say it?

In education, we know as well as anyone that students are not only informed about the world around them, but have strong and thoughtful opinions and beliefs. We unapologetically support their right to express them. Today we see students, from marches to baseball games, peacefully drawing attention to these important matters. And as long as I have a say, we will stand behind them … even when they choose to take a knee. By proclaiming Black Lives Matter, our school district is not only going to be on the right side of history, more importantly we are going to be on the side of doing what is right.

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