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Petition: Pride flag in Alabama classroom creates “hostile learning environment”

Signatories crib from conservative pundit Star Parker, comparing rainbow flag to the Confederate flag

Photo Credit: Kevin Goebel/flickr.

A group of students and parents at an Alabama high school are demanding that a rainbow LGBT Pride flag hanging in a teacher’s classroom be removed, reports the New York Observer.

In a petition, they claim the flag’s presence at Auburn high school “creates a hostile and provocative learning environment” for students who oppose homosexuality.

The group also call it “unprofessional” and “distracting” for social studies teacher Donna Yeager to display her personal “political views” in the classroom.

Yeager moderates the AHS EDUCATE club, which promotes diversity at the school. But the petition signers say allowing Yeager to express her views with the flag “drives a wedge between students with differing viewpoints.”

In the petition, addressed to Dr. Shannon Pignato, the school’s principal, the parents and students claim that the presence of the flag could make students whose families don’t support LGBTQ rights uncomfortable.

“[S]ubjecting or explicitly exposing students from diverse political backgrounds to political views differing from theirs can make students uncomfortable and distract them from learning the material assigned to them, preventing them from reaching their full potential,” they write.

They also borrow an argument previously advanced by conservative pundit Star Parker that the rainbow Pride flag, and what it represents, is just as divisive and offensive as the Confederate flag.

“In closing, the signers of this petition would like for you to consider the uproar and chaos that would ensue were a teacher to hang for example a Confederate, Christian, or Heterosexual Flag in their classroom,” they write. “There would likely be protests, emails from teachers, and threatening of lawsuits from parents with differing viewpoints. As such, one does not see teachers hanging these flags in classrooms due to the same argument that it is unprofessional and can create a hostile and unideal learning environment.

Taking this and our before mentioned reasons into consideration, the signers of this petition ask that the Pride Flag be removed from Auburn High School in order to preserve a welcoming, beneficial, and unbiased learning environment for students from all political backgrounds attending Auburn High School,” they conclude.

So far, the petition has garnered 1,224 signatures.

But other students and parents have launched a counter-petition to support Yeager and ask that the flag be allowed to remain in the classroom. They argue the Pride flag shows support for students who are LGBTQ, and criticize the Confederate flag comparison.

“In the real world, to suggest individuals be isolated from differing political views is an absurdity,” the counter-petition reads. “To be made uncomfortable by opinions differing to your own is to function as a modern human. Attempting to insulate a student from political discourse would be an insult to their intelligence.”

Thus far, the counter-petition has garnered 6,899 signatures, out of a goal of 7,500.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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