In August, an Oregon school district voted to ban LGBTQ and Black Lives Matter flags, as well as other “political” signs and articles of clothing.
“We don’t pay our teachers to push their political views on our students. That’s not their place,” Brian Shannon, school board director and vice-chair of Newberg Public Schools, explained. “Their place is to teach the approved curriculum, and that’s all this policy does, is ensure that’s happening in our schools.”
Superintendent Joe Morelock said he would meet with the district’s attorney's prior to enforcing the policy, NBC News reported. “The bans have sparked concerns with many students and teachers resigning, protesting or being suspended for voicing their opinion on the schools’ action,” the U.K.’s Independent reported .
“This feels so draconian … this feels so anti-everything,” board member Brandy Penner expressed. “Anti-free speech, anti-free expression, anti-safety.”
Board member Ines Peña also argued students weren’t given enough of a say in the decision and discussed how some students and their families described feelings of having experienced discrimination.
“The quality of some of the stories that we heard should count more than just the number of emails that we received,” stressed Peña. “And I feel like that’s not being heard. The students are not being heard.”
Davis School District in northern Utah also banned LGBTQ pride and Black Lives Matter flags from its buildings several years ago.
Administrators claim the symbols are too “politically charged,” reported the Salt Lake Tribune.
Utah Board of Education member Natalie Cline has recommended that classrooms not be a place for “identity politics,” the report noted.
Community activists argue LGBTQ and black students are made to feel more welcome by the flags.
“These people who want to remove the flag, they don’t understand what it means to us,” said Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education at the Utah Pride Center. “That flag represents love and acceptance.”
In September, John M. Wallis, a teacher from Neosho, Missouri, resigned after his school district responded to parents’ complaints of his display of an LGBTQ “pride” flag in his classroom with instructions to remove it.
Mary Emily O’Hara of LGBTQ activist group GLAAD, told Yahoo Life that flag bans “are harmful messages that youth and adults alike recognise as hurtful discrimination, when the message should be that we include, protect and value the most vulnerable among us.”
“Displaying an LGBTQ pride flag is an inclusive and harmless way to show LGBTQ people they are welcome and safe,” O’Hara concluded.