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

Lip Dub Poster Sparks Controversy

Students held signs reading “Free Gaza” during the school spirit event, signs which provoked significant tension and which were blur in the later released video.

This month, controversy arose during LM’s Lip Dub when a group of students held up signs reading “Free Gaza,” and received swift responses from administration and fellow students. The Lip Dub was filmed on April 11, and published on May 1. The signs, which were clearly visible picked up by the camera, were blurred to ensure they were not included in the Lip Dub.

The Lip Dub is an LM tradition where members of the school community make signs celebrating elements of school pride, and gather in the hallways to film a celebratory video aiming to improve school spirit and, this year, to fundraise for the Sean Hughes Memorial Fund. 

A junior, who will remain anonymous and in this article is referred to as John Grey, along with two peers made and then held up “Free Gaza” signs during this year’s Lip Dub. The signs were held while the camera passed their zone on LM’s second floor. While the students experienced little conflict through the Lip Dub’s filming, after the event ended, Grey reports being approached by another student, a junior who also wishes to remain anonymous and will henceforth be referred to as Jane Green. According to Green, a Jewish student, she saw the “Free Gaza” sign, questioned the student holding it, and went to the principal’s office to report the incident to Assistant Principal Olufemi Fadeyibi. Later, Green told The Merionite that members of LM’s administration “called my parents and told them, ‘Jane came in very upset [about the sign]’ and further action would be taken,” in the Lip Dub video.

The following Friday, Grey was called down to the Administrative Office where he met with Fadeyibi one-on-one. Grey, who is Israeli himself, left the meeting frustrated, saying, “In this district, I feel like people feel attacked if you are pro-Palestine, and I totally get where that comes from. But that led to the administration acting like they had no idea what to do.” From Grey’s perspective, the controversial nature of his actions left the members of administration he interacted with at a loss. 

While the Lip Dub’s filming was not directly interrupted by the sign–the Lip Dub continued as normal without stopping or erupting into conflict–Grey shared that he felt his sign made LM’s administration feel as though they needed to respond. Grey reports members of administration being particularly concerned about any potentially antisemitic motivations behind his actions, and that “[Fadeyibi] asked me directly “Would you say that being pro-Palestine is antisemitic?” To which Grey responded “no.” LM administration related that Fadeyibi has no recollection of this question being asked. Instead, Grey explained that his motivation for making and holding the signs was out of a desire to visibly show his support for Palestine and Palestinian students, saying he believes “The Lip Dub was a really good opportunity…because it’s this big and unnecessary school event happening while there’s a genocide going on, while people are being displaced, and starved and killed, and many of them are children just like us.” 

Grey expected that his time in the office would be the end of the experience for him. Instead, he was surprised when building administration called home to report the incident to his mother, and told them that they began considering disciplinary action. Grey reports being told that members of administration were spending the weekend deciding whether to give him a detention for his actions, and that they would call him down to the office on Monday, April 15 to let him know the details of any further disciplinary action. Grey says that he has yet to receive any further communication from school administration. According to Principal Micheal Johnson, the student did not face disciplinary action and the call home to inform parents of the circumstances of the incident was the only “action” taken. 

When asked what rule administration was citing to pursue disciplinary action, Grey said that, “in my opinion, it seemed like they were making up rules as they were going along.” Grey claimed he was never made aware that his sign needed to be approved, and said he was not aware that student’s were not allowed to bring their own posters. Lip Dub posters were mentioned in three emails to students, two from Student Council club advisor Sean Capkin and one from Student Council Secretary Keira Edge. The emails announced three poster painting events and were addressed to “Club Leaders and Sports Captains” so they could “advertise how cool your club is, and make other people want to join.”  Though these forms of communication were addressed to clubs, not individuals, none of the emails explicitly told students they couldn’t make posters individually or that they needed posters to be approved. Grey feels that he was singled out due to the content of his sign, and that “if [he] held up [an unapproved] sign that said ‘Aces Nation’ on it, they wouldn’t have a problem.” Grey highlights that other clubs and student groups displayed posters that were not specifically approved by members of Student Council. It should be noted that not all posters shown at the Lip Dub were specifically approved for the video. The Merionite staff held up unapproved posters and Players held up a poster for their upcoming show which was not approved. However, these unapproved posters, as specified in the Student Council emails, represented clubs, not individuals. 

Green also reports that Grey’s sign was not the only one addressing the conflict. While standing next to Jewish Student Union’s Lip Dub sign, Green says she saw a small yellow painted ribbon at the bottom that read “Bring them home,” in reference to the Israeli hostages kidnapped by Hamas on October 7. The Merionite has independently confirmed the existence of the painted yellow ribbon on the sign, itself a symbol of the The Hostages and Missing Families Forum, but can not confirm whether there was visible text. 

“Do I feel like I have the freedom to protest? Not really, after that,” says Grey. “People say you have freedom of speech and freedom of protest, but when it comes down to actually protesting, it’s looked down upon and they will punish you for it. They’ll get you on a small little rule that they make up in the end after the fact.” 

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