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HSE board president apologizes for superintendent's letter about Black Lives Matter as parents protest outside

Many parents were angry about a letter from Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff to district teachers, giving guidance on how to teach students about Black Lives Matter.

FISHERS, Ind. — They stood in silence, in the cold, the snow falling around them, just outside the Hamilton Southeastern Schools administration building. 

Parents with the district held signs up outside Wednesday night’s regularly scheduled HSE school board meeting. 

Only 25 people were allowed inside the meeting because of COVID-19 restrictions. 

The parents outside knew they wouldn’t be among them but said they wanted to be here anyway. 

Many of them were angry about a letter sent this week from HSE Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff to district teachers, giving guidance on how to teach students about Black Lives Matter.

"This is history. This is Black history on Black History Month and you want to silence it,” said parent Aaron Ferris of the superintendent’s letter which advised teachers to treat Black Lives Matter as a political issue, not a social one. 

"This isn’t 1963, man. It’s time to change,” Ferris said of the superintendent’s directive.

RELATED: HSE superintendent criticized for faculty letter about Black Lives Matter movement

After an outcry on social media earlier this week, Bourff issued a second letter Tuesday, apologizing, saying he was only trying to give strategies on how to teach and talk about Black Lives Matter. 

Bourff called it "One of the most significant issues of our time.” 

"Too little too late,” said parent Amber Welch, who also stood outside the school board meeting with a sign. 

Credit: Hamilton Southeastern Schools
Hamilton Southeastern Schools Superintendent Dr. Allen Bourff.

At the meeting, HSE school board President Jane Pritchett apologized for Monday’s letter. 

"We know that our students, teachers, and community deserve more than an apology. We must commit to reopen relationships, restore trust and prevent this hurt in the future,” said Pritchett. 

"I challenge us all to stand in solidarity against injustice, racism, and violence and to continue the quest for equality,” Pritchett added. 

Board member Suzanne Thomas, elected this past November, said she could not fully support the statement. 

"Black Lives Matter. Unfortunately, here is the confusion that many struggle. There is also an organization with the same three words that encourages negativity,” said Thomas. "Because of this, I cannot support the statement that the board made today, without including this. However, I very much support that Black Lives Matter.

"I know our students will continue Black history and study Black history as American history and I know they will do this all year long with pride,” Thomas added.

RELATED: HSE Schools' superintendent to retire at end of school year

Wednesday night’s protest outside the meeting wasn’t the only outcry from parents and students about the superintendent’s letters. 

Two petitions have been started on Change.org. One of them calls for the superintendent’s resignation and has more than 2,000 signatures as of Friday morning. 

The other petition calls for Black Lives Matter to be taught by HSE teachers, saying, "During an era in which racial injustice has ravaged the United States, are teachers to remain silent?” 

The parents standing in the cold to protest say the answer from them is "no.” 

"Black Lives Matter. There’s nothing left to be said. Black Lives Matter,” said dad Aaron Ferris. 

"I have taught my children since they were little that it only takes one voice to enact change,” added Welch. 

13News also heard from some parents via email and social media concerned we didn’t share the voices of parents who had concerns about how Black Lives Matter was being taught in school. We offered them a chance to comment. They either did not respond or declined.

As of Friday morning, a change.org petition has more than 2,000 signatures, calling for Bourff's resignation.

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