ST. BERNARD, Ohio -- Jennifer Berry was shocked when her daughter said her school had a “White Entrance” and a “Colored Entrance” poster on one of its doors.
Berry’s daughter is biracial. The sign, on a door at St. Bernard-Elmwood Place High School, made her feel ostracized because “she can’t identify as either white or black,” Berry said.
The poster was not vandalism, but a decoration created by students a teacher had approved for Black History Month, according to Mimi Webb, superintendent of St. Bernard-Elmwood Place Schools.
Webb said the school participates in decorating contests to commemorate Black History Month each year and that the picture was “taken out of context.”
“Breaking the Chains” was the theme of the door, Webb said, and it was supposed to promote “how far we have come in society while acknowledging that we need to do more as a society.”
The school also said the decorations on the door were not yet complete, and they have since removed a portion of the poster.
But Berry thinks the school should apologize to its students.
“I feel like that door made her ashamed of who she is,” Berry said. “And she should never feel that way.”
Berry said she would have expected teachers to know that the display could be considered inappropriate.
“I believe her intent was for educational purposes, but in Germany they don’t put out concentration camps to remember the end of the Holocaust,” Berry said. “I just don’t understand why this would be acceptable.”
Junior Cheran Sherman helped design the door. She said the poster was supposed to draw attention to how far the country has come.
“I started off with the black paper, which represents the colored entrance only, and then the white paper represents the white entrance only, and how they were separate; the Jim Crow laws -- separate but equal -- I had it in that state of mind,” Sherman said.
“Then I had the heart that represents the love that was going to be broken, because separate but equal wasn’t really of love, it was really towards hatred … I was going to put the heart back together with a red strip that reminds me of America, how we fought and overcame the hatred and all the bad things that happened during the Jim Crow era.”
Sherman said she never meant to hurt anyone with the design.
“It wasn’t meant to make people feel bad … and I guess people took it the wrong way,” Sherman said.
But Berry said the decoration was distasteful.
“My interpretation of Black History Month is that it’s a time to celebrate how far we have come as a nation, and this did not demonstrate how far we came,” Berry said. “It demonstrated taking it back.”
Sherman said her school has always been very supportive of celebrating Black History Month, and her design was meant to reflect that.
“It’s not always about hatred … it’s about love. Just come together,” Sherman said.
Berry reached out to WCPO- 9 On Your Side after this story aired; she said she wanted to apologize for the misunderstanding.