A Threat to Freedom of Speech? School Districts Banning LGBTQ+ Pride Flags

More school districts nationwide have implemented bans on displaying LGBTQ+ Pride flags on their campuses as the new school year unfolds.

Nevertheless, some civil rights activists warn that such measures may undermine freedom of speech and expression.

Controversial Banning in Schools

In northern California’s Bay Area, the Sunol school district has implemented a ban on displaying Pride flags at the town’s only elementary school.

The new policy was adopted after the school’s board voted in favor of the ban in a 2-1 vote in September 12 amid fierce opposition that nearly ended in chaos. The school’s board locked the public out of the meeting to avoid persistent interruptions as supporters and critics of the new rule shouted at each other.

According to reports, the Sunol Glen Unified School District Board prohibited using other flags, including the Pride flag, while allowing the US and State flags only on its campuses. This sparked opposing rallies, which were held on September 13.

A Similar Ban, the Same Day

On the same Tuesday, Temecula School District in southern California implemented a new policy governing the display of flags across campuses within the district.

The new controversial policy, which the district adopted thanks to a 3-2 vote, prohibits all flags except the State and US national flags. However, the policy has limited exemptions, allowing the display of other flags to be approved by the school’s superintendent.

Last month, the school board also approved a policy requiring the school to notify parents if their students begin identifying as transgender.

Mixed Reactions

While many parents view the ban as a way to minimize gender-based discord among students, many pro-LGBTQ+ view it as a direct attack on the gay Pride flag.

“Taking down a pride flag is telling people they’re not wanted,” a navy veteran told the school board during the public comment session at Temecula School District.

“How un-American is that? You’re telling them, ‘Go into the closet. Be quiet. We don’t want to see you. We don’t want to acknowledge you.'”

Similarly, one woman told the board that the “Pride flags represent inclusivity – not sex,” as reported by ABC7 News. However, her argument was criticized by another military veteran, who said that the US flag was a symbol of total inclusivity.

“I think that the American flag does promote total inclusivity of everybody,” said Daniel Molina, expressing his happiness with the outcome.

To show his absolute support for the ban, Molina attended the meeting wearing a T-shirt featuring two US flags printed on the front, with “Families and Parents First” written below them.

READ NEXT: Is It Lawful For Religious Schools To Dismiss LGBTIQ+ Educators?

The Controversy

The ban on Pride flags in multiple school districts across the US has received criticism from the LGBTQ+ community, with many groups warning that it’s an extension of curriculum bans restricting schools from mentioning gender identity topics.

Some activists have also argued that the ban violates the US Constitution by overriding the First Amendment protections. As per the US Supreme Court ruling, the First Amendment extends to teachers and students in school, guaranteeing them freedom of speech.

Many states passed the bans alongside that of Critical Race Theory, a move that Jay Blotcher, co-founder of New York City’s LGBTQ+ advocacy group, the Gilbert Baker Foundation, said is part of a larger push against diversity and inclusivity.

Last month, a pro-LGBTQ+ California student protested the ban by handing out hundreds of Pride flags to classmates. This subsequently sparked a campaign to support the 16-year-old junior at Great Oak High School with more Pride flags and stickers to distribute to more students in defiance of the new rules.

The ban on LGBTQ+ symbols in the two California school districts follows a wave of Pride flag bans across the US, with multiple municipalities also adopting the same policy.

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This article was produced by TPR Teaching.

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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