‘You Belong, You Matter’ signs spark interest

The+spread+of+the+campaign+is+spotted+along+the+perimeter+of+Southern+Lehigh+districts+grounds+and+the+community%2C+showcasing+the+impact+of+the+movement+.+

Evelyn Blower

The spread of the campaign is spotted along the perimeter of Southern Lehigh districts grounds and the community, showcasing the impact of the movement .

Evelyn Blower , Features and Opinion Editor and Assistant to EIC

 

Dotting Southern Lehigh School District, from public grounds to residents’ property, white signs with colorful text pop up. Upon closer glance, they read, “You belong You matter – We are all Southern Lehigh”. The campaign, started by Southern Lehigh parent Kristen Bruck sparked controversy when debate spread about what teachers can post regarding messages like these signs. 

Articles from the Saucon Source, the Morning Call, and multiple in WFMZ all discuss the topic that came to light at a recent school board meeting, where some residents asked for restrictions on the kind of signs teachers can post. Teachers currently have vague, broad rules on what they can post. Multiple classrooms have signs that inspire acceptance, inclusivity, and motivation; however, some community members feel these signs to be unnecessary and uncomfortable in a place of unbiased education.

“The reality is that the district has the authority to tell teachers what they can and cannot post; that’s the legal reality of it as employees,” said social studies teacher Mr. Thomas Beaupre.  “I don’t understand what a sign that simply talks about inclusion, caring and tolerance that wouldn’t have a place in our school or why they wouldn’t represent that.”

Students in Southern Lehigh can attest that the majority of pupils appear white, straight, or cisgender. According to censusreporter.org, the racial makeup of Southern Lehigh district is 89% white, with the average percentage of all other minorities accounting for 2.5% of the population. These numbers do not invalidate Southern Lehigh citizens of color; rather, the “you belong” campaign intends to recognize marginalized groups such as people of color and LGBTQ+ students.  

“We’ve all been through a couple of really hard years and I heard a lot of things being said at school board meetings and parent meetings, and I was just concerned some of the things could be hurtful to kids,” said Bruck, who created the campaign. “I wanted to create something that was just meant to be kind to tell kids that there are adults in the community that care about them and appreciate them for who they are.”

Teachers and administrators in the district take extreme care as to how they teach sensitive subjects. 

““I think it’s important to keep it on an educational level, however as a teacher it is very important that my students know that they will always be accepted,” English teacher Mrs. Leigh Kern said. “I will be sensitive to topics that they may find personal, or have an impact on them [and I] believe that teachers have [that] obligation that goes beyond education.”

The topic of diversity, equality, and inclusion became the focus of discussions sparked by calls for change in 2020, exacerbated by police brutality and racial divide. These conversations are difficult ones to have, especially in a district where the majority cannot speak on behalf of those subject to discrimination. 

“Figuring out it was a mom who wanted to preach togetherness and equality in our school made me want to support whatever movement was happening,” said senior Andrea Prince. “It made me feel heard.”

Many Southern Lehigh residents and students advocate for a full education that speaks on all topics and correctly educates about our country’s history from an unbiased standpoint. Southern Lehigh’s popular Facebook and other social media groups (SL Advocates for Full Education, SL Moms, and You Belong campaign) all have many participants who, unaffiliated with the school itself, advocate for changes to education, experiences, or general comments about life in Southern Lehigh

The “You Belong, You Matter” campaign hopes to spread their word through signs and other merchandise, as well as spreading to other schools in the Lehigh Valley area. The contentious issue of what teachers may post in their rooms has been debated at a school board meeting but an official policy has not yet been passed.