As many as 100 students gathered in the cafeteria of Archer High School in Gwinnett County, Ga., on Thursday morning, staging what they’re calling a Pledge of Allegiance sit-in.
The protest comes a day after the school’s principal sent a letter to parents about racially divisive comments made by another student on social media.
Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach confirmed to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that “a group of approximately 75-100 students […] sat in the cafeteria this morning upon coming to school and stayed there until after the first period tardy bell rang.”
Roach did not comment on the nature of the gathering at the Lawrenceville school, but several students posted on social media calling it a “sit-in” or a “silent protest.” Their posts referenced the Black Lives Matter movement and social injustices.
On Wednesday, Archer principal Ken Johnson sent a letter to parents addressing a student’s recent use of racial slurs in social media posts referencing the number of black students at the school.
“As you can imagine, these comments were concerning to individuals at our school and in our community and hurtful to others […]” Johnson’s letter said. “I think it important for you to know that we are aware of this situation and are working to address it with the student involved and his family. Concerns have been raised that other students may act out in retaliation or protest. We continue to talk to students and remain vigilant to ensure our school remains a safe, secure, and orderly place for all of our students.”
Roach, the GCPS spokeswoman, said the school “acted quickly and appropriately,” but one of the protesting students told The AJC that Thursday’s sit-in was a direct response to the incident and the students’ belief that the school’s administration “isn’t taking enough action, because they haven’t even addressed the student body.”
“As you can imagine we are upset, but we are also hurt, we aren’t looking for revenge, we are looking for equality and respect,” the Archer senior, whose name is being withheld due to her family’s safety concerns, said in a text message, continuing, “we say ‘Black Lives Matter’ not because black lives are more superior than other races, but because the black race is under constant attack. this is a very sensitive issue that we aren’t taking lightly.”
She said students involved in the “movement” plan to wear all black Friday.
The sit-in also comes amid a tense national conversation spurred by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, who has been taking a knee during pre-game national anthem ceremonies for several weeks. Several other players across the league have joined him, echoing his statements decrying American law enforcement’s treatment of black citizens.
The country’s latest pair of controversial police shootings in North Carolina and Oklahoma have fanned the flames even more.