A school district in Utah has banned Pride flags from classrooms, claiming that they are as “politically charged” as “Make America Great Again” flags.
Davis School District also banned the display of Black Lives Matter flags in order to remain “neutral,” district spokesman Chris Williams told the Salt Lake Tribune.
Williams said, “No flags fly in our schools except for the flag of the United States of America,” although he added that flags for sports teams and international countries would be allowed.
The district argues that the ban is part of efforts to comply with Utah state law, which requires that teachers refrain from discussing their personal religious or political views. However, it does not explicitly prohibit the displaying of flags.
In an email to teachers and administrators earlier this month, the district said that the ban on flags also extended to other decorations, including Pride pins, adding, “It does not matter what we have done in the past.”
Davis School District has taken a harder stance against Pride flags than other districts in the state, with the Utah Board of Education noting that each district is free to set their own policy on flags, except with regards the American flag.
“There is nothing in code that specifically defines a rainbow flag as a political statement so it would be up to district or charter school policies to make that determination,” a board spokesman told KUTV.
Williams argued that the decision to ban Pride flags and Black Lives Matter flags was “surely not something that slights anyone.”
“We have to be welcoming to every student that walks in the class,” he said. “We cannot set up a situation where students walk in feel attacked or uncomfortable.”
LGBTQ advocates have argued that removing Pride flags not only prevents teachers from showing students that their classrooms are safe spaces, but further marginalizes LGBTQ students who might benefit from seeing their identity valued and respected.
“These people who want to remove the flag, they don’t understand what it means to us,” Amanda Darrow, director of youth, family and education at the Utah Pride Center, told the Tribune. “That flag represents love and acceptance.”
In a statement, the ACLU of Utah said, “Whether or not a school district has the legal ability to ban inclusive and supportive symbols from classrooms, it is bad policy for them to do so.
“Utah schools have an obligation to ensure that all students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identify, feel welcome inside a classroom. We urge school administrators and teachers to adopt policies that make all students feel safe and included.”
Davis School District’s decision contrasts with others in the state. Nicole Palmer, principal of Rose Park Elementary, told the Tribune that she had her district’s full support to fly Pride and BLM flags in the school’s atrium.
Palmer said the flags are intended to be “comforting and reassuring and validating. I want students to see that they are wanted here and seen here for who they are — every part of who they are.”
While the school had received threatening calls and emails for displaying the flags, aided by publicity from outraged conservative activist Eric Moutsos, Salt Lake City School District stood behind Palmer’s decision.
The district’s superintendent emailed parents telling them that the flags were not a “political statement” and said they were intended to “bolster ALL students and specifically prohibit discrimination.”
“The flags show our students and families we love them and want them to succeed,” the superintendent said. “That’s a goal I hope the entire community can support.”
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