A local public school in Minnesota unanimously voted to designate “Black Lives Matter” — including other slogans and images — as “government speech,” which shields its schools from legal liability for their endorsement of such messages while simultaneously disallowing others.
The Rochester Public Schools (RPS) board designated the following messages as “government speech”: “Black Lives Matter, “Brown Lives Matter,” “Indigenous Lives Matter,” “All Are Welcome Here,” “Stop Asian Hate.”
Also added as “government speech” is a six-colored (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet) rainbow pattern and flag, which it said is the “pride flag.”
The school board described its decision on April 27 as part of a “inclusive” pursuit of “equity” targeting “historically underserved/marginalized students [who have been] disadvantaged because of their race, ethnicity, English language proficiency, national origin, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, non-dominant identity, dis/ability or geographic location.”
“Recent national and local events that have called attention to racist attitudes and actions, xenophobia, discrimination, bias, societal race-based disparities, and other forms of systemic racism that have persisted for centuries,” the school board declared in its official record of the meeting.
The board said, “We are responsible for nurturing anti-racist learning environments.”
The board denied that its decision amounts to an endorsement of particular political objectives. It added, “Our adoption of this government speech is not to be construed as an endorsement of any specific policy objectives that may be advanced by other organizations using the same or similar messaging.”
John Edison, the RPS’s board attorney said, “So here with adopting the messages that you’re adopting as government speech, you’re saying these are the messages that we’re communicating as a school district and by doing that we’re not also creating a forum to allow other types of speech to enter the forum.”