A bisexual teacher in Michigan has resigned from their middle school after being told to remove Pride flags from classrooms.
Russell Ball, who teaches physical education and health at Three Rivers Middle School, told local NBC affiliate WOOD that he and other teachers received an email on Nov. 22 instructing them to remove their Pride flags until further notice.
The demand came in response to an “external challenge” about the flags, according to Ball, who noted rumors that “one or two parents…complained about the flags being in the classroom.”
After receiving a second email instructing him to remove his Pride flag, Ball said that he opted to resign, citing both burnout and his LGBTQ identity.
“To me, the flag represents love and inclusion for everybody, not just whoever is of the LGBTQIA+ community,” Ball told WOOD. “I felt very disheartened and saddened.”
Ball, who had been teaching for more than a decade and will now focus on being a stay-at-home dad to five, said that students “losing that representation throughout the classrooms really hurt, losing my own representation in the classroom really hurt.”
He added: “It all comes down to having some open communication and building understanding that we’re not out to vilify anybody, but we are here and we do exist.”
I resigned today after 12 years in education when the district demanded I remove my pride flag from my classroom. I refuse to be an active part of the oppression and suppression of an already marginalized student population. The PRIDE flag isn't political @wwmtnews @outfrontkzoo
— Russell Ball (@coach_lardie) November 22, 2021
In a now-viral TikTok he recorded after tendering his resignation, Ball said that working through the pandemic was tough, but he drew the line at “being an active participant in the suppression and oppression of an already marginalized group that I’m part of.”
“By removing it, I feel like I am being told that I am invalidated, that I don’t belong,” he said, “and that’s not a message I want to send to myself or any of my students.”
He added: “The Pride flag is not a political statement. It’s a human right statement. We’re all human. We should all have the same rights… but we don’t.”
Ball told FOX 17 West Michigan that, prior to resigning, he was the last holdout of the teachers contacted and asked to remove their flags.
After explaining to Three Rivers’ principal why he didn’t want to remove his flag, Ball alleges that the principal said he understood but that the directive to remove the flags came from the district’s superintendent.
In the second email to educators asking them to remove their flags, Three Rivers School District claimed that they were acting on the advice of the District Attorney of St. Joseph County, Michigan.
Interim Superintendent Nikki Nash issued a statement calling it an “ongoing situation” and saying that the district would “continue to work with the district’s legal firm and board of education to ensure we are providing a safe learning environment for all students.”
The statement also noted that there is a board meeting scheduled for Dec. 6.
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