After a teacher posted a rainbow flag in her classroom to promote an extracurricular club focused on inclusiveness and diversity, a group of students and parents have signed a petition to have the pride flag removed, claiming it is insensitive to students who do not support LGBTQ rights.
The controversy started last week at a fair to learn about the different clubs and organizations at Auburn High School in Auburn, Alabama. One group called the E.D.U.C.A.T.E. Club, which focuses on promoting inclusiveness and diversity, used a rainbow flag as part of its display. The flag is commonly associated with LGBTQ rights. The flag was reportedly on display on a glass wall outside of a classroom.
Shortly after, a petition was started, calling on the school's principal to disallow the display of pride flags on school grounds. The petition, which as of Monday night had 277 signatures (of a desired 500), claimed that the flag "creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable to openly supporting the LGBTQ+ community."
Auburn City Schools clearly promotes quality of education and empowerment of the individual to reach his or her full potential. However, subjecting or explicitly exposing students from diverse political backgrounds to political views differing from theirs can make students uncomfortable and distract them from learning the material assigned to them, preventing them from reaching their full potential.
While news reports said the petition was started anonymously, it is associated with user Andrew Monk on Change.org, the website where the petition is hosted. The petition says that while they don't have an issue with the teacher supporting the LGBTQ community, students with differing viewpoints shouldn't have to be subjected to teachers' "polarizing views."
We also feel it is inappropriate for a public school system to allow teachers to explicitly express clearly biased political viewpoints in a supposedly unbiased and politically neutral school system. We feel that an expression of these views only drives a wedge between students with differing view points and can alienate students with unpopular political and/or religious views from the popular majority in the class, further deteriorating the classroom and learning environment.
On Friday, Karen DeLano, the superintendent of the school district issued a statement to the media, saying that the peition had not yet been presented to the Auburn High School principal, but that the administration was aware of the concerns, and was working to find a solution.
It has been brought to the attention of Auburn city schools and Auburn high school that a petition from a group of anonymous students and parents was sent to Dr. Shannon Pignato, the principal of Auburn High School. As of noon [Friday], she had not been presented with that petition. She is aware of the situation though, and is working with staff and students to address those concerns.
A counterpetition has reportedly been started by Auburn High School student Brandon Sinniger. This petition has far greater support than the initial petition, gathering 4,355 signatures in three days. The counter petition speaks to the initial petition's argument that students shouldn't be faced with political views that conflict their own, as well as points to how the flag helps LGBTQ students feel comfortable and safe at school.
In the real world, to suggest individuals be isolated from differing political views is an absurdity. To be made uncomfortable by opinions differing to your own is to function as a modern human. Attempting to insulate a student from political discourse would be an insult to their intelligence.
The school has reportedly said it is dealing with the issue internally, and no updates have been shared with the public.