- A Wisconsin school board has banned teachers and staff from displaying gay pride flags, political or religious messages, Black Lives Matter and We Back the Badge signs.
- Staff are also prohibited from posting their preferred pronouns in emails.
- More than 13,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the decision.
WALES, Wis. — A school board in Wisconsin has voted in favor of a policy prohibiting teachers and staff from displaying gay pride flags and other items district officials consider political in nature.
The Kettle Moraine School Board voted on Tuesday to keep in place a code of conduct that the superintendent recently interpreted as prohibiting district employees from displaying political or religious messages, including pride flags, and Black Lives signs. Matter and We Back the Badge. Staff also may not say in emails what their pronouns are.
Superintendent Stephen Plum recently told the board that the district’s interpretation of a policy prohibiting staff members from using their positions to promote partisan politics, religious views and propaganda for personal gain, whether monetary or otherwise currency had changed following a legal analysis.
Jim Romanowski was the only board member to vote against the ban, saying he changed his mind about the policy after hearing from students and staff.
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“It really looks like targeted attacks”
Most of those who spoke at Tuesday’s board meeting opposed the policy. The public comment period was capped at one hour, despite a call from the crowd to extend it.
“If you have a policy that says ‘nothing political’, does that mean you can’t have a sign that says ‘Support Our Troops’, ‘Believe Women’ or ‘Save the Planet’? According to the definitions some people, all of these things are political,” said Christine Donahoe, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
Donahoe said she is looking closely at the policy and a similar policy approved last fall by the nearby Waukesha School District.
“It really looks like targeted attacks on specific viewpoints, like LGBT communities, or welcoming and safe spaces for students of color,” Donahoe said.
More than 13,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the Kettle Moraine policy started by two local high school students, Bethany Provan and Brit Farrar.
“Having a rainbow flag in your room doesn’t impose your beliefs on someone,” Provan told WITI-TV. “It’s just about saying, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here, and we’ve got your back.'”
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“A real long way”
On July 27, the district posted on its Facebook page that it had banned the use of pronouns in emails and email signatures, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported. .
At the time, Plum, the superintendent, said district policy prohibited staff from using their positions to promote partisan politics, bigoted religious views, self-serving propaganda for personal gain, monetary or non-monetary. But in response to a question from a board member, Plum said a cross necklace would be acceptable if worn and unobtrusive.
“I would say it’s a personal item, and I wouldn’t care, unlike something like a t-shirt with big letters on it,” Plum said.
Community members chimed in on the July 27 Facebook post, citing concerns about the mental health of LGBTQIA+ students.
“The idea that the very presence of a pride flag or markers that say this is a safe space – for it to be considered political or religious, it seemed like a real stretch. It seemed like a passive way- aggressive and legalistic to silence LGBTQ teachers, allies and students,” Trey Korte, a former Kettle Moraine High School English teacher who identifies as gay, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Teachers are not in a position to promote political views – I get it, that’s fair, that makes sense,” he added. “(But) if you’re going to tell a teacher that you can’t have a pride flag because it’s ‘political’, then I feel like it’s incumbent on you to explain why that is. politics, and that’s the question they’re asking. doesn’t seem to answer. I feel like there’s avoidance there,” Korte said.
Contributor: Associated Press; Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel