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Thousands of Seattle Public Schools teachers wear ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-shirts to classes

SEATTLE —  Supporters say it’s more than just a T-shirt, the goal behind the words is to open up dialogue.

About 2,000 teachers in the Seattle Public Schools system  were wearing their message with “Black Lives Matter” shirts on Wednesday.

“I see this as an opportunity,” teacher Sarah Arvey said.

A chance to say that black lives matter.

“We are providing students with a range of information and perspective on what Black Lives Matter means,” Arvey said.

Arvey says she's teaching her students at Hamilton International Middle School about institutionalized racism, equality and police brutality.

“We know students are talking about this amongst themselves so to provide a safe space for dialogue,” Arvey said.

Arvey launched the T-shirt campaign after last month’s public backlash against John Muir Elementary teachers who wanted to wear the shirt.

The district canceled the event after someone online threatened to harm the school.

Many more called to complain about the message teachers tried to send last month.

On Wednesday, people sounded off on social media again.

“They should leave it out of the schools! They are pushing their social agenda on the kids,” one person wrote.

“Political ideology needs to stay out of our schools. I am tired of groups trying to convince us that we are racist because of the color of our skin and our personal beliefs,” another person said.

One Seattle mom even posted a picture of her child’s shirt at school on Wednesday that read “Unity is the only way.”

“I don’t think it is teachers promoting a political agenda, it’s a chance to open dialogue and talk about how race is impacting our schools,” Arvey said.

The Seattle Public Schools superintendent also wore a T-shirt on Wednesday, but instead of the words ‘Black Lives Matter,’ it said ‘Eliminating opportunity gaps.’

The district says as a public institution, it does not take positions on social and political matters but adds that the teachers have the First Amendment right to wear their speech.

“I think it’s a great idea it’s an inspiration for the children all the racism in the past everything we went through,” Tanya Simmons said.

“I think the lessons will be good, parents shouldn’t have a problem with it,” parent Marqua Brown said.

But for some parents, the issue isn’t just black and white.

“I have to check with my kids first and see what they learned today and after that I think I will have a better opinion,” parent Maritza Romero said.

The district says they are getting a lot of feedback from the community. Half of them are opposed to the event, many of them from out of state. The other half are in support, many of those supporters could be attending a rally at Washington Hall on Wednesday night. Students, parents and teachers are expected to speak about their vision on how to support black lives at schools.