A school in Indiana has sparked a huge backlash after it ordered teachers to remove Pride flags from their classrooms.
Pendleton Heights High School principal, Connie Rickert banned the flag, claiming it stopped students focussing on learning. She said:
“Teachers are legally obligated to maintain viewpoint neutrality during their official duties to ensure all students can focus on learning and we can maintain educational activities and school operations. Our counselors are trained to respond to any student who desires support.”
Meanwhile, the president of the board of trustees for the local district compared it to a white supremacy flag and in an email wrote:
“The issue with displaying the flag in a school is a double-edged sword.
“If an LGBTQ+ flag is allowed to be displayed, then any other group would have the same ability. That could include such flags as supporting white supremacy, which is in direct conflict with LGBTQ+. I hope we can model equality and support through our actions.”
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But the decision triggered anger in the school community, unsurprisingly.
Responding to the ban, student Bryce Axel-Adams started a petition calling on the school to reverse the policy. It has since garnered over 4,000 signatures.
He wrote: “Having a pride flag is one of the clearest ways to say, ‘I support you, and I’m here for you. You are loved.’
“That is so important for LGBTQ+ youth, we have always been told that teachers will always be there for us, and being able to easily identify teachers we can safely go to is extremely important to our mental health.”
Bryce later added that he had received an update from the school administrators saying they had changed their stance, and weren’t banning the flags because they are “political speech”, but to “avoid a discrimination lawsuit”.
Whether they will respond to the petition and reverse the ban comprehensively, remains to be seen.