“Enough already”: Schools in several states ban Pride and BLM flags for being too political

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According to reports, there is an increasing number of schools across various states that are banning the likes of the LGBTQ Pride flag as well as the BLM flag, due to the political and oft divisive nature of these flags.

It is hardly a contestable notion that there are political connotations associated with the BLM and Pride flags – without even having to cite the presence of these flags and symbols at demonstrations (and sometimes riots) simply due to them being emblematic of efforts to enact legislative changes in certain arenas.

And with symbols that promote certain stances in the realm of politics, disruptions in what should be neutral learning environments can arise if there is even the slightest hint of tacit endorsement by school staff of such symbols.  

Back in August, an Oregon school district opted to ban the presence of BLM or Pride flags – alongside other political signs or even articles of clothing. Brian Shannon, school board director and vice-chair of Newberg Public Schools, stated the following about the matter:

“We don’t pay our teachers to push their political views on our students. That’s not their place. Their place is to teach the approved curriculum, and that’s all this policy does, is ensure that’s happening in our schools.”

Newberg Public Schools board member Brandy Penner voiced her opposition to the effort to ban such signage and flags, calling it “draconian”:

“This feels so draconian…this feels so anti-everything. Anti-free speech, anti-free expression, anti-safety.”

While Penner’s sentiments may resonate with those hosting a topical understanding of freedom of expression, public schools have long imposed restrictions on certain forms of expression in the realm of spoken word and displayed symbols/speech – be they banners, flags or clothing.

Said prohibitive mandate would foster well under the same authority that currently prohibits expletive-laced tirades, inappropriate garments (a.k.a., dress codes) and the ilk. Certain forms of speech in public schools can indeed lawfully warrant disciplinary action on the student body and staff level.

Newberg Public Schools board member Ines Peña, who reportedly wore both a BLM shirt and a Pride headband during the August meeting, proclaimed that students should be given a larger voice in the matter rather than parents voicing concerns:

“The quality of some of the stories that we heard should count more than just the number of emails that we received. And I feel like that’s not being heard. The students are not being heard.”

This notion, again, can revert back to the likes of lawfully enforceable dress codes – and the voice of concerned parents should always usurp that of the student body when it pertains to the learning environment in which they relinquish their children to five days a week.

Davis School District in northern Utah also banned Pride and BLM flags from their buildings a number of years ago, with officials noting that the symbols were simply too politically charged for the learning environment.

Amanda Darrow, the director of youth, family, and education at the Utah Pride Center, was particularly incensed over the banning of Pride flags on school buildings, alleging that the flag represents “love and acceptance”:

“These people who want to remove the flag, they don’t understand what it means to us. That flag represents love and acceptance.”

Despite the assertion of Darrow, the Pride flag does not represent “love and acceptance” in its conveyed meaning – it literally “represents a segment or part of the LGBT community. Pride in this case refers to the notion of gay pride” as according to Wikipedia. It’s a flag that predominantly signals pride in a sexual orientation.

Hence, Davis School District spokesman Chris Williams proclaimed that only “the flag of the United States of America” and flags showcasing sports teams are the only ones that are welcome in district schools.

Utah Board of Education member Natalie Cline also mirrored similar sentiments, saying that classrooms should be a zone for “identity politics.”

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Washington school bans “controversial” Thin Blue Line flag, but BLM and Pride flags still allowed

(Originally published September 30th, 2021)

MARYSVILLE, WA – A teacher at a middle school in Marysville was ordered to take down a Thin Blue Line flag that was hung up inside of her classroom, with school officials telling her that it was a controversial symbol that made students feel unsafe.

Yet the school still allows for the likes of Black Lives Matter and Pride flags and messages to be displayed from inside of classrooms.

According to a report from Jason Rantz, the flag removal order was handed down by school district officials to a teacher at Marysville Middle School.

The teacher had the Thin Blue Line flag hung inside of her classroom as a means to show support for police officers, yet the school district’s human resources department alleged that the flag is a “political symbol” that could cause a “disruption” in the classroom.

However, a double standard seems to exist – in that Pride and BLM flags can remain being displayed inside of the school.

Chris Sutherland, the brother of the teacher who is also a former police officer with the Marysville Police Department, claims that the existence of this double standard is rooted in anti-police sentiments coming from school staff at the middle school.

It all started with a simple Thin Blue Line sticker that the teacher had placed on her laptop, once again to show support for the profession and her brother. At the time of the sticker being placed on the laptop, an assistant principal at the school objected to the sticker.

A human resources document pertaining to the mere sticker debacle noted that the assistant principle approached the teacher with “concerns about how students, families, and community members might interpret what the image is intending to communicate, and that this interpretation may cause a disruption to the learning environment.”

Despite there being initial objections over the sticker, the school reportedly dropped the issue.

However, when the teacher hung a Thin Blue Line flag inside of the classroom with photos of her brother posted around it – then another assistant principle got involved and ordered the flag to be taken down.

Sutherland told Jason Rantz that this order was delivered with the repeated message of possibly upsetting students:

“They told her that it’s controversial to have that flag up. That it makes kids and staff feel unsafe, which to me, that does not make sense at all.”

The teacher reportedly received a “Letter of Clarification” from a district human resources representative regarding concerns over the display of the flag inside of the classroom.

These concerns outlined in the letter noted “about the impact of this political symbol on students, staff, and families of Marysville Middle School” and how an assistant principal at the school “had heard concerns from other staff members about how this political symbol might negatively impact the overall professional work environment.”

Said letter from the district’s human resources department mandated that the teacher “refrain from using the ‘Thin Blue Line Flag’ symbol” completely – stickers and all. And in the event the teacher decides to go against the grain, it could “result in further disciplinary action.”

This “Letter of Clarification” proclaimed that the district supports police but wouldn’t offer a firm explanation on why the Thin Blue Line flag is somehow being construed as a “political symbol”.

But an all the more confusing aspect regarding this disallowance over the propensity for the Thin Blue Line flag to be considered a “political symbol” and how it could disrupt the learning environment – BLM flags, imagery and the sort is still permitted, Sutherland stated:

“There’s also, she was telling me, BLM stuff hanging on walls, which she was told is OK. Just for whatever reason, just the Thin Blue Line flag cannot be hung up there.”

One would hardly doubt the framing that BLM is a political movement – as it has been the name and rallying cry amid numerous protests (and riots) that aims to redress policies believed to adversely affect black Americans.

And the same could certainly be said about the Pride flag, as it has been often used as a political symbol in an effort to advance civil rights within the LGBT community in the past. In fact, the same teacher told to remove the Thin Blue Line flag has a Pride flag displayed in her own classroom.

While Thin Blue Line flags have certainly cropped up at various demonstrations over the years as well, there has never really been any sort of desired policy prescriptions aligned with the flag and what it represents.

The school district has not come forward to explain why political symbols for BLM or Pride are permissible, but the alleged undefined political connotations of the Thin Blue Line flag result in a barring of the symbol being displayed in all forms.

Sutherland says that he “can hear in her voice how much it actually hurts her being told to” remove the Thin Blue Line flag from her classroom, saying in their conversations about the matter he finds it “frustrating because I know how much she cares and how much this means to her. For her to have to go through that…it’s just not fair.”

Still, Sutherland says that his sister will continue to push the issue in hopes that she’ll be able to eventually redisplay the flag without facing possible termination – but the whole ordeal with the human resources department getting involved has “left a lasting impression.”

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