Metro Weekly

Bisexual Michigan teacher resigns after being told to remove Pride flag

Middle school teacher Russell Ball refused to be "an active participant in the suppression and oppression" of LGBTQ people

russell ball, bisexual, teacher, pride flag
Russell Ball — Image: TikTok

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.”

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.

Read More:

Iowa court rules Republicans can’t deny health coverage to transgender Medicaid recipients

British man stabs gay man 12 times after sexual encounter while yelling, “I’m not f***ing gay!”

Milwaukee parents sue school district for affirming their child’s gender identity

Leave a Comment:

Support Metro Weekly’s Journalism

These are challenging times for news organizations. And yet it’s crucial we stay active and provide vital resources and information to both our local readers and the world. So won’t you please take a moment and consider supporting Metro Weekly with a membership? For as little as $5 a month, you can help ensure Metro Weekly magazine and MetroWeekly.com remain free, viable resources as we provide the best, most diverse, culturally-resonant LGBTQ coverage in both the D.C. region and around the world. Memberships come with exclusive perks and discounts, your own personal digital delivery of each week’s magazine (and an archive), access to our Member's Lounge when it launches this fall, and exclusive members-only items like Metro Weekly Membership Mugs and Tote Bags! Check out all our membership levels here and please join us today!