An organization that advocates for the First Amendment rights of journalists is asking South Burlington High School to allow coverage of a Black History Month event scheduled for Friday
Students plan to raise a Black Lives Matter flag at the outdoor event. But after publicizing the ceremony in a two-page press release, the school announced that members of the public — including reporters — would be restricted to an area across a busy road from the high school.
On Friday, the New England First Amendment Coalition called on officials at South Burlington High to allow the news media access to the ceremony
“This is an unnecessary infringement on the right of journalists to enter public property — property supported by taxpaying citizens — to report on a story of great public interest,” the NEFAC and the Vermont Press Association said in an email to South Burlington Superintendent David Young.
“Not to mention, by barring the press, the school district invites the suspicion of community members who may speculate about the purpose of the school’s secrecy,” the email said.
The raising of a Black Lives Matter flag on the first day of Black History Month has been in the works since last June, when school board unanimously approved a proposal by South BurlingtonHigh School’s student-led Student Justice Union.
In a statement of intent, the student group said “the flag signifies our commitment to creating a just, equitable, and empathetic world. It is a symbol of inclusion, especially for our students of color.”
South Burlington High announced the event on January 25. At the time, Young called the BLM flag-raising “an important, student-led event.”
On Tuesday, Young issued an ‘important clairifcation” that said the flag raising and “accompanying events” were designed for students and staff only. He offered no explanation for the restrictions on the public and media.
In its demand that the restrictions be lifted, the NEFC said South Burlington High School students’ efforts to raise awareness about racial injustice and inequiality should be “fully recognized in the community.
“Only with this access can South Burlington residents better understand the significance of the event and the extent of the students’ involvement,” the statement said.
A request for comment from Young was not immediately returned.