A Maryland school board has voted to adopt a new policy banning most flags, including the pride flag, after some teachers were allegedly "bullied" into displaying the pride flags donated by an LGBTQ+ group.
Carroll County's new flag policy would only permit the American flag, Maryland state flag and Carroll County flags to be displayed in classrooms.
The school board's vote, which took place last week, comes after the Westminster chapter of PFLAG, a national LGBTQ+ group, donated a number of small rainbow pride flags to the Carroll County Public Schools. The school's staff was encouraged to display the flags in support of the LGBTQ+ community.
Superintendent Steven Lockard said during the board meeting last Wednesday that the pride flags were available to all staff members but that nobody was forced to display them in their classrooms.
But school board members expressed that some teachers said they felt "bullied" into propping up the flag due to political pressure. The board also noted that the flag violates the school district's newly revised political neutrality policy. The school district revised its political neutrality policy earlier this year to require employees to "remain neutral on political issues, parties and candidates during classroom instruction" and refrain from speaking on those topics unless they are "aligned with the approved curriculum."
"Our students are a captive audience and as such need to be protected from all political agendas, both from the right and the left," school board member Donna Sivigny said at Wednesday's board meeting.
"I also respect the rights of teachers to work in a non-hostile work environment, deliver an effective lesson and support all kids in the best way that they can, but we require that they do it in a politically neutral way that creates a safe space for every student in our schools," she continued. "However, many teachers have reached out to me saying that they've been pressured or bullied to put flags in their classroom, and that's a problem that needs to be addressed."
School board president Kenneth Kiler said, "These flags were shoved down teachers’ throats to put on their desk – that’s not inclusive. That’s not the way it ought to be."
And school member chimed in, "What this does is open up a gateway for other flags to come into our schools that other people will not like. We’ve already banned the Confederate flag, and that was done a couple of years ago. … The premise behind the Pride flag was social advocacy ... which is political."
Sivigny suggested a new flag policy to restrict flags displayed in the classroom to allow only the American flag, Maryland state flag and Carroll County flags.
The school board will work on a new flag policy and will hear public comments on the move before initiating a vote on the matter.
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