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A Wisconsin school board voted in favor of a policy banning gay pride flags and Black Lives Matter (BLM) flags in classrooms because of what school leaders say is a political message.
“Teachers and administration will not have political flags or religious messages in their classroom or on their person,” Superintendent Stephen Plum said before the vote, according to Fox 6.
The Kettle Moraine School Board voted last Tuesday to uphold a code of conduct that the school superintendent had interpreted as prohibiting teachers from displaying political and religious messages in classrooms. Political messages include some such as gay pride flags, BLM flags, and “We support the badge” signs. Only one school board member voted against the ban, saying he made the decision after speaking with concerned students and staff.
The policy also includes prohibiting teachers from including their preferred pronouns in email signatures.
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A huge multi-colored flag flies over Ocean Drive as people participate in the Pride Parade during the Miami Beach Pride Festival in Miami Beach, Florida on September 19, 2021.
(Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)
Plum told the school board that the district’s interpretation of the policy, which prohibits employees from using their positions to promote partisan politics, religious views and propaganda for personal gain, monetary or nonmonetary, changed after a legal analysis.
The vote was held in a packed room last week, as students and community members weighed in on the measure.
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“I’m not controversial. I’m not political. I’m a person,” one student told the board, according to Fox 6 .
A protester waves a Black Lives Matter flag during the demonstration in Los Angeles on April 20, 2021.
(Stanton Sharpe/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
“The fact is, most students don’t want or need this, so catering to the minority only encourages the envelope to be pushed further,” said another student.
Before the vote, two high school students in the district set up a Change.org petition calling for the ban to be reversed. The petition has garnered more than 13,000 signatures since it was launched last month.
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The ACLU of Wisconsin has since issued statements criticizing the vote and is currently investigating the policy.
Interior of the school classroom.
“If you have a policy that says ‘nothing political,’ does that mean you can’t have a record that says, ‘Support our troops’ or ‘Believe women’ or ‘Save the planet?’ By some people’s definitions, all of these things are political,” said Christine Donahoe, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
“It really feels like targeted attacks on specific viewpoints, like LGBT communities, or welcoming and safe spaces for students of color,” Donahoe added.
Donahoe said he is looking into the policy, as well as one that was passed by the Waukesha school district. A Waukesha teacher gained national attention last year when the school district suspended her after she hung a pride flag in her classroom.
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The Associated Press contributed to this article.