An art teacher in San Antonio, Texas, has been fired after refusing to stop wearing a homemade Black Lives Matter face mask to her charter school.
Great Hearts Western Hills fired Lillian White just one week before students were set to return to campus, according to a report from KENS-TV, after she refused to stop wearing a face covering with “Black Lives Matter” and “Silence Is Violence” written on it.
“It was really stressful,” White recalled, “because I have a financial obligation to help support my family. It’s also kind of heartbreaking that this is the kind of — this is the reason that I lost my job.”
White, a veteran teacher of 10 years, said she wore the mask in question for “about a week and a half” during in-person faculty training in July, adding she had no problem at the time. A couple of her colleagues even asked her to make similar masks for them.
Then last Friday, White recalled, she received a text message from the charter school’s assistant principal, who told her she had to stop wearing the politically motivated face covering, because the school did not want to put educators in a position of discussing such controversial issues with parents.
For her part, the ousted teacher insisted it is not a political matter, but a “human rights issue” that “should be something that is promoted at our school.”
“It’s an excuse to not talk about it by saying this is politics, talk about it on your own time,” she asserted. “It’s just an excuse because they’re uncomfortable with the conversation.”
What is the school saying?
In a statement this week, Great Hearts Western Hills said it has asked its faculty and staff to wear generic masks without any external messaging on them.
Nevertheless, the charter school said it stands with the black community.
“Great Hearts respects the privacy of all current and former employees and as a result does not issue public comment on specific personnel matters,” said Superintendent Daniel Scoggin. “On the question related to face coverings, Great Hearts enacted, in this unprecedented pandemic environment, a policy that face coverings have no external messages. This policy was authored by school leaders and teachers in service to the learning environment of our classrooms.”
He continued: “Great Hearts was founded and exists today to serve the innate dignity and worth of every human being. We stand with the Black community and all who are suffering. Great Hearts deplores bigotry and its crushing effects on all those subjected to it. Great Hearts is committed to an America where racism, violence, and injustice do not happen, because such acts find no home in the hearts of a great people.”
White, however, said she is “still trying” to push the school to implement “some kind of anti-racism action plan,” because the criticism she’s received proves “that this is a conversation they still need to have.”