September 30, 2022
A new target in the education culture war is Pride flags in classrooms
Pride flags, created to promote unity, are now being called political and divisive in some schools across America. In just one recent example, an Oregon school board on Tuesday banned educators from displaying the flags. “We don’t pay our teachers to push their political views on our students. That’s not their place,” a school board member…

Pride Flags are being called divisive and political in schools across America. One recent example is that an Oregon school board banned teachers from flying the flags on Tuesday.

” We don’t pay teachers to promote their political views on students. At a recording board meeting, Brian Shannon, a Newberg school board member, stated that it was not his place to push their political views on students.

Several other cases have been reported in which students and school officials targeted LGBTQ symbols. After being told remove the rainbow flag from his classroom, a Missouri teacher quit last month. He also was forbidden to discuss “sexual preference” at school. A group of students at a Florida high school were accused of harassing their classmates and hooting on Pride flags. In August, Pride symbols were also targeted at a high-school near Dallas. Rainbow stickers were ordered to be removed from classroom doors.

Students, teachers, and parents rallied on Sept. 28, 2021 in Newberg, Ore., to oppose an imminent vote by the Newberg School Board that will prohibit Black Lives Matter and Pride flags or banners in their schools. John Rudoff / Sipa USA via AP

In most of the cases where school officials are targeting the symbols themselves, administrators have defended their actions by saying that the LGBTQ emblems are divisive and “political.” But LGBTQ students, parents and teachers affected by the bans contend that the new rules are causing harm to a vulnerable group of young people.

“Feeling safe should not be political,” said Victor Frausto, 16, who is gay and a student at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas, just outside Dallas. Frausto said that the sticker was a message to me that a teacher had put up. It meant that you would not be hated because of who you are or what you identify yourself as .'”

. Frausto also stated that school officials decided to ban rainbow Pride stickers. He stated that when you see how the stickers were taken off, it conveys that “I don’t fit in here, and I shouldn’t be here.”

Students, teachers, and parents rallied on Sept. 28, 2021 in Newberg, Ore., to oppose an imminent vote by the Newberg School Board that will prohibit Black Lives Matter and Pride flags or banners in their schools. John Rudoff / Sipa USA via AP

Frausto, who is the president of his school’s Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), said that the rainbow stickers were removed overnight without warning.

When he noticed the stickers, he and the other GSA students brought it to the attention their GSA sponsors. They were a group teachers who had received an email regarding the matter from the school district.

” While we appreciate the effort to reach out to students who might not have had this support in the past, we want to change the tone for this year,” the email read. A teacher shared the email with NBC News.

The educators assured the group that they would press for an explanation and fight to have the stickers removed from classroom doors. Frausto stated. Frausto said that two teachers were taken off campus within days.

A spokesperson for the Irving School District declined to identify the teachers and, when asked about their alleged removals, told NBC News that the district “does not comment on employee-related matters.”

A student walkout at MacArthur High School in Irving, Texas. Courtesy Victor Frausto

In response to the sticker removal, hundreds of students staged a class walkout last week. In a video posted Wednesday by the community-based journalism platform Smash Da Topic, students can be heard shouting, “Bring our stickers back!”

Following the protest, the district, in a statement, defended the move as a way “to ensure that all students feel safe regardless of background or identity” by maintaining political impartiality. In Newberg, administrators also used political neutrality to defend their policy. After fierce criticism for prohibiting Pride and Black Lives Matter flags specifically, school board members broadened a ban in September to block educators from displaying all symbols the board deemed “political, quasi-political or controversial.”

“Their place is to teach the approved curriculum, and that’s all this policy does is ensure that’s happening in our schools,” Shannon, one of the seven Newberg School District board members who spearheaded the policy, said at a livestreamed board meeting Tuesday night.

Students, teachers, and parents rallied on Sept. 28, 2021 in Newberg, Ore., to oppose an imminent vote by the Newberg School Board that will prohibit Black Lives Matter and Pride flags or banners in their schools. John Rudoff / Sipa USA via AP

The Newberg City Council and the Newberg Education Association, a union representing 280 educators and staff in the District, have denounced the policy, and the Oregon State Board of Education has asked for it to be revoked. Newberg residents have also petitioned for Shannon’s recall.

“As a gay man with no children and no real desire to have children, I feel like I should never know the names of the people on the school board, let alone have to stand up against them,” said Zachary Goff, a Newberg resident who launched the petition, which has received over 1,000 signatures. I think I speak for many people in my community but we cannot sit back and allow this to happen,” Goff said. “They picked a really bad town to be the guinea pig.”

Chelsea Shotts, 29, who is bisexual and works at an elementary school as a behavioral interventionist within the Newberg School District, said her mental health has deteriorated since the district’s policy was introduced over the summer.

” If I were only concerned about me, I’d just quit. “But the thing is, I’m in Newberg and I’m in Dundee because I love these students and they deserve everything.”

“I would rather be able to stay here and keep doing the work instead of being attacked by a culture war that four board members started,” Shotts added.

Chelsea Shotts, Newberg School District behavioral interventionist, faces off a counterprotestor at a protest over Pride and Black Lives Matter flags last week in Newberg, Ore.Courtesy Chelsea Shotts

School administrators are not the only ones who have gone after Pride flags and LGBTQ symbols this school year.

Police are currently investigating multiple incidents in which Pride flags were stolen from outside of a Virginia Tech religious centre. In one case, the LGBTQ symbols were replaced with two Confederate flags. And in Georgia, a high schooler was charged last month for attacking another student draped in a Pride flag in a school cafeteria.

Advocates warn educators about the high rates of bullying, harassment, and mental health problems plaguing LGBTQ youth.

A 2021 survey by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization, found that 42 percent of the nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth surveyed seriously considered suicide within the last year. It also found that more than half of the transgender and nonbinary youth who were surveyed considered suicide.

A separate survey conducted by The Trevor Project in 2020 found that LGBTQ youth who reported having at least one LGBTQ-affirming space reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

Beth Woolsy’s children Cai and Cael Woolsy, both 14, on their first day of school in Newberg, Ore.Courtesy Beth Woolsy

Beth Woolsy, who is bisexual and has two LGBTQ children who attend school in Newberg, said the harrowing numbers continue to weigh on her as she sends her kids back to school each day. “When we realize that it’s really life and death that they’re talking about when we send our children to school, then they take away the safety of being able to go to and expect them to advocate for them,” she stated.

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