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Florida high school pauses yearbook distribution over pages on Black Lives Matter

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(MIAMI) — A Florida high school temporarily halted distribution of its student-run yearbook amid concerns over pages covering the Black Lives Matter movement.

Administrators at West Broward High School in Pembroke Pines, about 18 miles southwest of Fort Lauderdale, paused sales and distribution of “The Edge” last Friday “while the concerns were carefully reviewed,” according to a statement from Broward County Public Schools.

Elise Twitchell, a senior at West Broward High School and co-editor-in-chief of “The Edge,” showed Miami ABC affiliate WPLG-TV the yearbook pages at the center of the controversy. A two-page spread shows students participating in protests in support of Black Lives Matter, which was kickstarted in 2013 in response to the fatal shooting of unarmed Black teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, local vigilante George Zimmerman. The racial justice movement has since become a global organization that says it aims to “eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”

Black Lives Matter gained momentum last year following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. The two pages in “The Edge” depict the history of the movement and include the names of Black men, women and children who have died at the hands of police.

“Most of it is history,” Twitchell told WPLG, “of why it’s happening.”

Twitchell said school administrators decided to stop selling and distributing the $90 yearbook last week without consulting with the editors after parents complained. She said the yearbook editors were told that the pages were not objective because they didn’t include a conversation about Blue Lives Matter, a pro-police countermovement that emerged after Black Lives Matter amid growing criticism of law enforcement.

“We just didn’t feel that including anything beyond Black Lives Matter was appropriate because we thought that it took away from the purpose of the page,” David Fleischer, the yearbook teacher at West Broward High School, told WPLG.

Fleischer said school administrators had the opportunity to review the Black Lives Matter spread before publication but chose not to, “thereby tacitly approving its inclusion.”

“Indefinitely suspending the yearbook over a spread advocating for education about racism is not what a ‘world class’ school does,” he added.

Yearbook sales and distribution resumed Monday after Broward County Public Schools completed its review of the controversial pages. The school district noted that it “supports and encourages students’ freedom of expression.”

“As the yearbook is intended to highlight notable and newsworthy events from that year, student journalists exercised their freedom of speech in documenting the movement,” Broward County Public Schools said in its statement. “As a result of the review, distribution of the yearbook resumed Monday morning with an insert noting that the views expressed are not sponsored by the District.”

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