Chicago — A school district in Utah banned Black Lives Matter and Pride flags this year, classifying them as “politically charged.”
Utah’s Davis School District sent an email to teachers and administrators in early September that the flags are banned under its official policies, according to them.us.
The board wants schools to be “neutral” on allegedly controversial issues, a spokesperson for the school district told the Salt Lake Tribune.
“Make America Great Again” banners are also prohibited under the policy, which has been in place for several years, according to KUTV, noting faculty were reminded of the guidelines at back-to-school training.
Banning the flags is part of an effort to follow state law, the spokesperson said, but according to them, Utah’s rules on the matter are “reportedly ambiguous.” Due to that uncertainty, some schools are continuing to let the LGBTQ+ and BLM banners fly while others aren’t. One school under Davis’ purview interpreted the district’s guidelines as applying to stickers and pins displaying Pride flags and pronouns.
Supporters of LGBTQ+ inclusion opposed the district’s approach, calling on Davis’ school board to reverse the ban. Nicole Palmer, a Salt Lake City principal, said displays like rainbow flags are “intended to be comforting and reassuring and validating” for marginalized students.
“I want students to see that they are wanted here and seen here for who they are — every part of who they are,” she said.
Advocacy groups are concerned about the growing trend of schools limiting the free expression of LGBTQ+ students.
“It's disappointing to see schools stigmatize and exclude LGBTQ+ young people by telling them that taking pride in their identity is not appropriate in the classroom,” Melanie Willingham-Jaggers, interim executive director of GLSEN, told them. “Banning pride flags sends a message that LGBTQ+ students' identities are not accepted, and that their school climate is hostile.”
The crackdown on the flags also comes amid increased conflict over LGBTQ+ inclusion in schools. Tennessee implemented a law this year allowing parents to opt students out of classes that touch of LGBTQ+ subjects. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey vetoed a similar law pertaining to sexual education.