Katey O'Connor, a teacher at Muncie Central High School, had her students read V for Vendetta, the classic graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd, and create some posters reflecting on how the ideological mission of the eponymous V from the book might relate to current real-life social conditions.
In the book, V is a queer anarchist who openly admits that he's doing terrorism as performance art in the name of anti-fascist liberation. He is fighting against a racist, sexist, homophobic authoritarian government.
Naturally, the students were able to make lots of connections to this story! The high schoolers did the assignment, and learned things! Unfortunately, the "School Resource Officers" (read: armed police who prowl the hallways under no one's jurisdiction but their own) were deeply, deeply offended by this — and tore down all the posters.
The students — unhappy that their educational experience about the dangerous censorial powers of racist, sexist, homophobic authoritarians was being censored by authorities — staged a protest. While you would think this was a reasonable course of action — the character of V would have likely just blown something up — the administration responded by shutting down in-person schooling and forcing the students to stay home and attend virtual learning classes.
When the teacher, Mrs. O'Connor, was called in a meeting with school Principal Chris Walker and Assistant Principal Rhonda Ward, she was explicitly told that the posters were removed because of their association with Black Lives Matter. The state Attorney General's office recently declared Black Lives Matter to be, "unequivocally a political organization," and issued a statement that, "strongly encourages public school corporations to update policies in light of this opinion to ensure classrooms remain politically neutral and applied in a consistent, uniform manner."
Or, as the school's chief communication officer told the Muncie Star Press: "The display created a disruptive discussion between a student and school resource officers that the student and other observers found offensive."
Vice spoke to some of the students involved:
"So originally we made the posters as a project for the book we were reading (V for Vendetta) a lot of my peers decided to go along the lines of police brutality, and BLM," Gabrielle Butler, a 16 year old junior at Muncie Central High School who completed the project, told me in a text message. "The police officers felt offense to it. And what started as a peaceful conversation ended up as a disagreement with a lot of untrue statements. We the students noticed how the police officers were acting and heard about our posters being removed from the hallway. A few students got together and had a discussion about what was going on, and created a protest that so many students came to support for the fact they didn't agree either."
"This feels like a targeted attack," one student said in a video of Monday's protest. "There are plenty of gay students at this school, and plenty of Black students. We shouldn't be scared to come to school."
The students, angry at the posters being hidden from public view at the school, peacefully protested with signs and spoke to a group gathered in the school on Monday. On Tuesday, they were forced to stay home and attend virtual learning classes.
Muncie Central students stage protest after conflict over class project [Charlotte Stefanski / Muncie Star Press]
School Removes Student Project About Fascism After Cops Complain [Samantha Cole / Vice]