Maine principal targeted #blacklivesmatter poster

Earlier this month the ACLU of Maine honored four Lewiston High School students — Kalgaal Issa, Chandler Clothier, Iman Abdalla, and Muna Mohamed — with a Baldwin Award for their work in promoting civil liberties.

But it wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the efforts of their former principal, Linda MacKenzie, who’s won a Muzzle Award for attempting to stifle their right to free speech.

The story unfolded last December when, according to the Portland Press Herald, MacKenzie ordered the students to take down an unapproved #blacklivesmatter poster they had put up to mark the police shootings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City.

One of the students told the Press Herald that MacKenzie insisted the message be changed to #alllivesmatter. MacKenzie told the newspaper in an email that she hadn’t actually seen the poster, and she reportedly declined to answer follow-up questions.

MacKenzie’s action was overruled by Superintendent Bill Webster. After initially siding with MacKenzie because the poster had been put up without prior approval, he reversed himself and allowed it to be displayed. “Based on what I know, I don’t see any reason it should not be posted,” Webster told the Press Herald shortly before making his final decision.

As for our Muzzle winner, MacKenzie resigned the following month after just 14 months on the job. Webster told the Sun Journal of Lewiston that her departure was related to the “school climate,” but that the #blacklivesmatters poster was not a factor.

The Lewiston students weren’t the only young Maine residents to stand up for freedom of expression. Three South Portland High School students also won the Baldwin Award for fighting for the right to tell their fellow students that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not mandatory.

“These students are an inspiration for their brave stands on behalf of civil liberties,” Alison Beyea, executive director of the ACLU of Maine, said in a press release.