Metro Weekly

Oregon school attacked after claims they swapped American flag with Pride flag

Conservative radio show helped spread false information that led to school being bombarded with complaints

An Oregon high school has found itself the target of right-wing outrage, after a talk show caller claimed two teachers had swapped the American flag for a rainbow Pride flag.

“Our son is a junior at Banks High School,” the caller, Rachel, told the Lars Larson Show. “He informed us this week that he has two teachers in his school that have taken down the American flag and replaced it with a gay flag.”

She asked Larson if it was reason enough to complain to the school district, and he said it was.

“Let me spitball this one, Rachel,” Larson said. “I’m guessing that the reason the rainbow flag went up is that perhaps the teacher who put it up may be gay or bisexual or whatever.”

Larson’s listeners proceeded to complain to the school about this apparently heinous act. However, as Oregon Live reports, both Rachel and Larson were wrong.

Not only was there no American flag removed at Banks High School, the rainbow flag in question was brought to school by a 16-year-old student to show support for the school’s LGBTQ population.

“It’s for the students,” Sam Munda told Oregon Live. “It was so students knew Banks High School is supportive of them. Having parents upset, that was not my intention. It’s not what I wanted at all.”

In a since-deleted statement on the Banks School District’s Facebook page, Superintended Jeff Leo reiterated that no U.S. flag had been removed from the school’s classrooms.

“It is true that a few teachers have chosen to display LGBTQ flags in their classrooms. These flags have not replaced any United States flags, and are intended as a symbol of support for LGBTQ students,” he said. “At Banks School District, it is our goal to create an environment where all students feel welcome, safe, and supported.”

The statement did little to calm conservative outrage, with Leo’s post attracting “hundreds” of comments, according to the Banks Post, before the district deleted it.

The following day, the school district posted another statement, saying they had removed the original post due the number of opinions that “had turned to personal attacks and a few posts with profanity.”

“We promote civil discourse but expect on district communications that we treat all people with dignity and respect,” the statement continued. “We had to delete the post.”

Munda, who identifies as pansexual, said that the reaction to the Pride flag was not what they expected.

“I was expecting a more supportive community,” Munda told the Banks Post, adding, “[W]e should not have to worry about if there is a rainbow flag in the school. I think we should worry more about the bullying that happens. Since the rainbow flags have gone up, I’ve seen that there are less people using ‘gay’ and ‘queer’ in a derogatory way, and a lot less bullying toward the LGBTQ community. So I think the flags have helped the Banks High School.”

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Rhuaridh Marr is Metro Weekly's managing editor. He can be reached at rmarr@metroweekly.com.