GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Four students at Grand Rapids Christian High School were suspended for two days over what many are calling an innocent act of free speech.
But school administrators are saying the story is different.
The students returned to school on Wednesday after being home on suspension Monday and Tuesday. The four students say that the issue was over signs they displayed to represent their viewpoint.
The students say they got into trouble for holding up signs that read “Trump” and “Trump Train” and “Build that Wall” in front of a banner that was sanctioned by the school reading “Immigrants are a blessing, not a burden.” The banner was placed by a teacher and some fellow students. Cell phone video captured some of the confrontation.
FOX 17 made multiple attempts to contact school officials since Tuesday. Grand Rapids Christian Schools Superintendent Tom DeJonge said in a statement late Thursday night after the story aired that the suspensions were the result of “highly insensitive and hurtful verbal remarks” and not the signs themselves.
“Those same students have apologized for their behavior and met with fellow students to reestablish the respectful culture that exists on our campus,” DeJonge said. “Additionally, students have asked to establish a more formal, ongoing dialogue to help everyone in our school community understand and embrace diverse viewpoints.”
The students say it wasn't a political statement and they aren't against legal immigration. Instead, they say the act was meant only to present their other side of a hot button political issue.
They say that the school immediately took their signs away and notified them of their suspension on Friday without much explanation. But they also say that they are most puzzled by the reaction from other students. The four say that upwards of 50 other students came at the four of them, threatening them with violence.
The school district's statement goes on to say that the students "those same students have apologized for their behavior and met with fellow students to reestablish the respectful culture that exists on our campus. Additionally, students have asked to establish a more formal, ongoing dialogue to help everyone in our school community understand and embrace diverse viewpoints."
FOX 17 has not been made aware of any other students who were disciplined in the incident.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include statements from Grand Rapids Christian Schools Superintendent Tom DeJonge, who responded to FOX 17's requests for comment after the story aired