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New York: ‘Black Lives Matter’ flag stolen from school, replaced with ‘All Lives Matter’

Parents at a Brooklyn elementary school say they’re locked in a months-long battle with neighborhood vandals who keep tearing down Black Lives Matter and Pride flags they hang outside the school.

“We’ve lost at least two or three Pride flags, and at this point we’re on our sixth or seventh Black Lives Matter flag,” said Shannon Roop, one of the Parent Teacher Association presidents at Public School 110 on Monitor St. in Greenpoint.

Parents hung the flags on a fence outside the school in September to broadcast the school’s commitment to anti-racism and LGBTQ rights, Roop said.

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“Within a day, they were gone,” she explained.

After that, the PTA decided to be more careful — soliciting the help of a parent who works in construction to build a flagpole of sorts to make the banners harder to reach.

It didn’t help, the flag stealing continued.

Just last week, the vandals knocked over the flag pole, took the two flags, and hung an “All Lives Matter” flag and American flag over the fence in their place. The latest theft came just days before the start of national “Black Lives Matter at school week,” a national effort embraced by many city schools to bring racial justice teaching to classrooms.

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Roop said the serial flag stealing — first reported by the Greenpointers website— has been a reminder that not everyone in the surrounding neighborhood supports that idea.

“You’re in Brooklyn, you kind of forget, and all of the sudden this happens, and it’s like how did we get here?” she remarked.

Roop said she’s not sure who’s behind the vandalism but that parents have had several tense run-ins with neighborhood residents, including an older woman and a group of kids in nearby McGoldrick park, who criticized the flags.

Parents filed a police report after the initial theft but haven’t contacted authorities since.

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The P.S. 110 flag incident isn’t the first clash over the politics of Black Lives Matter and racial justice curriculum in District 14, which encompasses Williamsburg, Greenpoint and parts of Bushwick.

In 2020, parents at P.S. 132 in Williamsburg organized to demand changes and started a petition after administrators allegedly expressed concerns over a “Black Lives Matter” message parents planned to post on the PTA’s Instagram page during the George Floyd racial justice protests.

Danielle Marchant, who’s a member of that group of P.S. 132 parents said the school has made some progress since then, but the “environment is still not where it needs to be.” As recently as last year, during a virtual meeting to discuss teaching about Black Lives Matter at the school, an adult yelled into “why do you have to learn about Black people?” Marchant said.

Parents at P.S. 147 in Bushwick have also described “hostile encounters” and backlash from parents and community members opposed to efforts to introduce Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ curriculum.

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The district’s Community Education Council — an elected advisory panel of parents — has criticized school and district leaders for failing to respond decisively enough to the clashes, and called on district officials to “give a public response,” create “an action plan to hold space for PS 110,” give an “acknowledgment of ongoing racism &homophobia in D14,” and assemble an “accountability team.”

Longtime District 14 superintendent Alicja Winnicki stepped down over the summer and was replaced by interim district chief Nyree Dawn Dixon.

Dixon wrote to parents Friday saying “we are saddened by” the P.S. 110 flag flap and “condemn in the strongest terms all racism, bias, inequity, and social injustice within our society.”

She said the district is working with a consultant to develop an equity plan, and plans to work with education scholars to help school staff “develop racial literacy,” and engage in “personal reflection about racial beliefs and practices while teaching our students to do the same.”

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Roop said the P.S. 110 parents behind the Black Lives Matter and Pride flags are hoping for more support from school officials and other city agencies to keep their banners hanging, but don’t plan on giving up.

“It’s really for us like, this is who our school is and making that a point of pride,” she said.

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