Port Charlotte High School Principal Lou Long has apologized for asking a teacher to remove a Black History Month display depicting controversial former NFL player Colin Kaepernick.
Following complaints from parents and students, Long ordered full-time substitute math teacher Alissa Perry to remove the display from her door just one day before the month ended. Her emotional reaction was posted to Twitter, and the video was viewed more than 2.4 million times and retweeted by Kaepernick.
Kaepernick angered many but became a hero to others when he took a knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality.
In an editorial published today in the Sun^p, Long wrote, “The method I used, upon reflection, was both hurtful and insensitive to the very people I love the most — my staff and students. I missed the opportunity to be inclusive in the decision making process when I neglected to listen to the vantage points of Ms. Perry, her students, and my staff.”
Perry told the Sun^p Thursday: “I think we all, as a community and as parents, can appreciate and accept the apologies given for the decision making process.”
She added: “For whatever reason, I probably won’t have closure on it.”
Perry said she can’t go back to the moment depicted in the video posted to Twitter, where she was seen taking down her Black History Month display. “It’s almost like a trauma,” she said.
Despite those feelings, Perry doesn’t fault Long for his decision.
“Just because someone makes a mistake, doesn’t make them a racist. There’s always room to enlighten people,” she said. “When they truly want to do something different, that’s when you see someone’s character.”
Perry said she is protective of her school and the principal. She said Long cares about the school, the students and employees.
“He strives to make it an amazing place to be for all students. We all have areas in which we can be enlightened. I believe the steps we plan on making will allow an opportunity for us all to learn and grow,” she said.
Long met with students in all of Perry’s classes and had a discussion with the Student Government Association about the incident, he wrote in his letter. He said the students “posed tough questions.”
“I am sure that they understood why I made the decision, but it did not assuage the hard feelings they felt. In all discussions, important to me was listening to all perspectives of campus stakeholders,” he wrote.
In the letter, Long outlined steps the school will take:
- Launch a student letter-writing effort involving the Blanchard House Museum, an African-American history center in Punta Gorda. (Reached for comment, Blanchard executive director Martha Bireda said the museum has had no contact yet with the school.)
- Consider recommendations from meetings with the local NAACP and Unitarian Universalist Church.
- Allow students a “writing opportunity” in English classes to “give all students an opportunity to voice their feelings.”
- Consider recommendations from students to develop a student diversity council that can give recommendations to school staff.
“Moving forward, we should continue to instill in our students an all-inclusive climate and expect the same from all of our faculty and staff members,” Long wrote.