Administrators at a Boston suburban high school told staff not to display items that could be political, including Pride, Black Lives Matter, and “thin blue line” pro-police flags, according to The Boston Globe.
A Stoughton High School employee also told The Boston Globe that staff members were directed not to use the phrase “DEI,” which stands for “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
The district superintendent, however, told The Globe in an email that no such directive was given.
In an email obtained by The Globe clarifying the rules, Stoughton High School administrative principal Juliette Miller told faculty that she wanted to keep classrooms safe for all members of the community.
“We need to avoid placing items in the classroom that can cause disruption or distraction,” Miller wrote.
Thomas Raab, the superintendent of Stoughton Public Schools, told Fox News that he is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion.
“Over the last couple of years, teachers have been asked to remove potentially controversial items from their classrooms,” he wrote in an email to Fox News. “This is part of a consistent effort by the district to limit potential disruptions to students’ learning so that our students and faculty can focus on educational lessons inside the classroom.”
Banning Pride and Black Lives Matter flags, however, can hurt LGBTQ students and Black students, some experts say.
Ryan Watson, an associate professor at the University of Connecticut who studies health disparities among sexual and gender minorities, told The 19th that policies against Pride flags hurt closeted LGBTQ students in particular.
Watson said one of the largest downsides “is the inability for youth who are not out to know where they can be safe, and who they could talk to in an emergency, or who they can first come out to and not lose resources or safety.”
Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, the executive director of GLSEN, similarly told Education Week that BLM flags are largely controversial only if one believes in white supremacy.
As Education Week reported, heated debates over Pride and Black Lives Matter flags in schools are taking place across the country. In Newberg, Ore., the fallout of a directive removing Pride and Black Lives Matter symbolism included protests, lawsuits, a firing and a recall election for the Board of Education, Education Week said.
Initiatives against Pride and Black Lives Matter symbolism in schools have had real consequences for teachers as well as students.
In Texas, CBS Austin said a teacher lost her job after refusing to stop wearing a Black Lives Matter mask in 2020.
In Missouri, another teacher resigned after being forced to take down a Pride flag, USA Today reported in 2021.
Teachers’ free speech rights are complicated, because what they do inside the classroom isn’t always protected by the First Amendment, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington.
“What you say or communicate inside the classroom is considered speech on behalf of the school district and therefore is not entitled to First Amendment protection,” the ACLU wrote in 2016.
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