Controversy over Pride flags triggers protest at Connetquot school
Students and parents rallied during Tuesday's Connetquot School Board meeting in response to a particular Pride flag being banned from classrooms.
The district has been sending messages out to parents stating that a teacher at the high school was told multiple times to remove the "Progress Pride flag" but was able to continue to display the traditional Pride flag in her classroom.
According to Superintendent Dr. Lynda G. Adams, a student in the classroom reported "feeling uncomfortable" about the flag.
The district said the teacher, also an advisor on the Genders and Sexualities Alliances Club, refused to take it down.
The district then implemented a policy that states that school employees shall not engage in political activities on school grounds.
During a news conference, the LGBT Network with their attorney argued the flag is not political and the district's policy is discriminating the LGBTQ+ community. They are now calling for legal action against the school board.
"Hate has no place in our schools. Hate has no place in our libraries. Hate has no place in our communities," said Dr. David Kilmnick, the LGBT Network founder. "We will work every single ounce that we have…to make sure we are supporting and standing by and standing with our families, kids and communities."
Students across Suffolk County came to the protest to weigh in on the controversy.
"My identity shouldn't be considered political so coming here meant a lot to me, fighting for what I believe in and to make school, not only this school, but other schools a safe place," says Ollie Castillo, a student at Patchogue-Medford High School.
Others like Joanne Minnieer, of Patriots of Pride, went to the protest to represent gay Republicans.
"We started this because the LGBT community with this one flag - it's a political gain," Minnieer says. "It's one thing about having the Pride flag, there's one thing of having the triangle in it - that's all for political gain and it's teaching these kids the wrong stuff."
Superintendent Adams wrote a letter to parents last week:
The district is aware of the mixed perspectives surrounding the display of the Progress Pride flag displayed in a classroom. Schools must remain neutral and safe learning spaces for all students and staff and while we respect individual personal beliefs, the classroom is not the appropriate setting to express these views, especially if they create a disruption to the educational environment. Any materials or conversations that violate this mission are prohibited within our schools. The district has offered alternate solutions, which were rejected by the teacher, and we continue to work to resolve this issue.
In a statement, the New York PTA expressed support for Pride symbols on display saying in part:
Every student and staff member deserves a safe school environment where they can feel comfortable being who they are. Our schools must be places of belonging, acceptance and safety.
They also went on to say that removing symbols that promote a spirit of unity and celebrate unique identities is a step backward.
The school district says they will hear all comments and concerns and will take everything into consideration to make sure every student feels they are in a safe space while in the classroom.