The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Harriton admin removes pro-Palestine stickers

A Harriton student’s artwork, which included stickers reading “Free Palestine,” was taken down due to lack of admin approval and members of the community being upset.

This month, controversy arose at Harriton after a student added stickers stating “Free Palestine” to a piece of her artwork. According to the the Harriton student responsible for the stickers and artwork, the incident began on Tuesday, April 9 when the student, who wishes to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Anna Blue, added four stickers featuring Palestinian flags and the words “Free Palestine” to an art piece consisting of photographic portraits of her fellow students that was hanging in Harriton’s main atrium. At least one fellow Harriton student took photos of the stickers and uploaded them to their social media. The stickers were then quickly reported to Harriton’s administration. 

Blue reports that she first noticed controversy around her stickers on April 11, when two of her fellow Harriton students attempted to remove the stickers from her artwork themselves by “jumping up and taking the stickers off [her] poster,” but Blue said she attached new, identical stickers, and left to attend her afternoon classes. 

Later on April 11, Blue was called down to Harriton’s student services office by her guidance counselor. She told The Merionite that her guidance counselor stated “Administration said you have to take the stickers off because they are political, and the school district doesn’t want any political work out there.” Blue did highlight being surprised that all of her stickers were considered political in nature. One of her stickers, she notes, “was just a heart, but it had the [Palestinian flag] colors inside of it.” Despite this, Blue says that she accepted the decision and returned to class, only to be called down, this time to the Principal’s office, to meet with Harriton Principal Scott Weinstein, who discussed the situation with her and had reiterated that the stickers were removed due to their political nature. According to Blue, the decision to have the stickers removed came from LMSD administration, who she says “called Mr. Weinstein himself” and stated that the art was not permitted in the school because of its political nature. Blue says she was dismissed from class, but later called back down to the office and was asked to stay in the office for the remainder of that school day. 

On the afternoon of April 12, all parents and guardians of Harriton students received an email announcing that a piece of artwork that displayed pro-Palestinian stickers was removed from display and that the student responsible “was identified, and their actions were addressed immediately.”

“While students do have a Constitutionally protected right to free expression, the stickers were removed,” explained Weinstein in his statement, “because anything posted in schools requires the approval of the school administration under District Policy 920 Distribution of Promotional Information. Additionally, Policy 235 Student Rights and Responsibilities states, “Students have the responsibility to obey laws governing libel and obscenity, and to be aware of the full meaning of their expression. Students have the responsibility to be aware of the feelings and opinions of others.” These policies, cited in Weinstein’s email as administrative reasoning for the removal of the art piece, govern the rights of students and staff to post or hang things inside the school building. 

Importantly, other politically-charged art, including a student illustration about abortion rights and another one depicting the dangers of communism, still hang on the walls of Harriton High School. The Merionite reached out to members of LMSD administration for comment, but was directed back to the statement released by Weinstein. 

This also wasn’t the first instance of student dialogue surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Blue highlighted a student organized protest in support of Israel at Harriton that took place this fall and was advertised through posters within the school building. To her knowledge no students faced pushback from administrators when planning or advertising the protest, in what she views as sharp contrast to the school’s reaction to her artwork.

One Jewish Harriton student, who also wishes to remain anonymous and will be referred to as Alex Silver, says that she believed the stickers removal was consistent with previous Harriton policy. According to her, every poster that students want to display at Harriton must be approved by Administration. “With the school’s hallway posting policies, it would be weird if they didn’t take it down, given what sticklers they are about club posters going up without approval.” Silver did add that she thought the statement released by Weinstein “generated more buzz about [the stickers] than there was in the first place,” and that it‘s uncommon for a student to be called to the office for putting up unapproved posters. 

 The email to parents and guardians went on to highlight that “this incident occurred just prior to a tenth-grade assembly during which students were hearing testimony from a Holocaust survivor. That assembly went on as scheduled without interruption.” According to Silver, the stickers were displayed right outside the auditorium where the assembly was taking place, and while she believes the stickers’ appearance may not have been related to the Holocaust survivor’s visit, “that’s what people perceived it as and that caused a lot of upset amongst the community.” Silver continued that, “it was the timing of the whole thing that was really unfortunate, because we had an announcement on the loudspeaker that that day tenth graders were being spoken to by holocaust survivors. That announcement is made and then passing period starts and the artwork is right outside…Just because of the context of the fact it’s right outside where the Holocaust survivor was speaking, people were pretty upset by it.” According to Blue, this reaction was a surprise to her, because she reports being unaware of the scheduled assembly, saying that “everyone thought it was aimed at the Holocaust survivor to make them feel bad, but I didn’t even know she was coming. ” She also notes that the stickers were up for two days before the event was scheduled to take place. 

In response to the presence of these stickers, members of Harriton’s administration contacted representatives of the Anti-Defamation League, a non-partisan organization that aims to combat antisemitism, and Stand With Us, “an international and non-partisan Israel education organization,” according to their website. Both organizations determined the incident was not an act of antisemitism, but the stickers were removed regardless as the district “acknowledge[d] the hurt and fear that the presence of these stickers created among some of our Jewish students and their allies,” according to their released statement. 

Many students feel grateful for its removal and see it as a necessary step to protect the safety of a marginalized student group. Silver student explained that she “got a lot of texts from people being upset, and a little bit angry,” after the stickers were found, and that the stickers “caused a lot of upset amongst the community.” Blue acknowledged their impact, but said that she still objected to the stickers removal. “In a way I feel like they are, of course, reacting to a hard situation, but it is censorship.”

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