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West Broward High School Yearbook Distribution Resumes After Weekend Suspension

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami/CNN) - West Broward High School's yearbooks are once again going out to students after the distribution was briefly halted by the school district.

West Broward High teacher David Fleischer, the adviser to students on the yearbook committee, said the distribution was suspended last Friday because of two pages that focused on the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I found out that it was because there were some complaints from teachers and from parents about the content of the BLM page," said Fleischer. "That it didn't seem objective, there were no opposing views. They mentioned the fact that we should have had, or could have included, something like Blue Lives Matter, All Lives Matter."

On Monday morning, Fleischer wrote an email to his co-workers at the Pembroke Pines school saying that "not every story has, or should include, an opposing viewpoint."

"Stating 'All Lives Matter' is equivalent to stating 'all houses matter' when one in the neighborhood is on fire," he wrote in the email. "Advocating for one group does not mean you are attacking another, but using a countermovement distracts from the discussions that must occur about how people of color are impacted by racism."

The Broward County school district confirmed in a statement that it paused the distribution of the yearbook, which is called "The Edge."

"Broward County Public Schools supports and encourages students' freedom of expression. After concern was expressed last week regarding editorial student content included in the West Broward High School yearbook about the Black Lives Matter movement, the school's administration paused distribution late Friday afternoon while the concerns were carefully reviewed," the statement said.

Distribution resumed Monday, but with a note inserted from the school's principal, Brad Fatout.

It said, according to a photo of the note Fleischer sent to CNN, "Please note that as a governmental agency, the School Board of Broward County must maintain a neutral stance on all political views. As such, any political views expressed in the 2021 West Broward yearbook are not sponsored by the District."

The statement, Fleischer said, "looks like they're saying that Black Lives Matter is political and it's not a human rights issue."

'We Were Censored'
The Black Lives Matter movement gained renewed national attention last year after the police killings of Black Americans including George Floyd. In the days and weeks following Floyd's murder, tens of thousands of people marched in streets across the US -- and around the globe -- decrying police brutality and social injustice.

Earlier this year, the movement was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for "their struggle against racism and racially motivated violence," wrote Norwegian MP Petter Eide in his nomination letter.

Kennedy Messado, a senior at the high school and co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook, told CNN the yearbook committee decided to include the Black Lives Matter movement to "accurately represent the entire year and the events that took place."

"I was more shocked and taken aback because I don't think I considered it being an issue or somebody having an issue with the spread," Messado said, calling it "disheartening."

"It was concerning, as a person of color from the school, that they felt as though they could take this approach and that it wouldn't have any repercussions," Messado added.

Elise Twitchell, co-editor-in-chief of the yearbook, said they were "censored."

"We were censored for a weekend and almost a full school day, and that's not something that should be happening to a student-run publication."

Fleischer, the yearbook adviser, said the lack of communication by school officials and the quick decision to pause distribution over the Black Lives Matter movement were both deeply upsetting, especially since so many students in the district are students of color.

More than 40% of students enrolled in the district are Black, according to the Broward County Public Schools website.

"We just feel that this is an attack on our non-White student body and it's just a slap in the face to my students who have worked hard in the yearbook, it's a slap in the face to obviously the First Amendment and to journalism," Fleischer added.

(©2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company, contributed to this report.)

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