School board president compares LGBTQ flags to support for white supremacy

School board president compares LGBTQ flags to support for white supremacy
multi colored striped umbrella on wall

An Indiana school board of trustees president is under fire after defending the board's order to have LGBTQ pride flags removed from three high school classrooms at Pendleton Heights High School. Last week the school district ordered the flags removed from French, Spanish, and art classrooms, claiming they violated a policy forbidding "political paraphernalia," The Herald Bulletin reports.

After an uproar, South Madison Board of Trustees President Bill Hutton sent a district-wide email to students, families, and school staff, comparing the LGBTQ pride flag with flags promoting "other groups," including those "supporting white supremacy."

"The issue with displaying the flag in a school is a double-edged sword. If an LGBTQ+ flag is allowed to be displayed, then any other group would have the same ability," Hutton claimed. "That could include such flags as supporting white supremacy, which is in direct conflict with LGBTQ+. I hope we can model equality and support through our actions."

But as many noted, comparing being LGBTQ to holding white supremacist beliefs is not supporting equality.

The board's order and Hutton's defense appears to expose what at least one student says is a lack of support for LGBTQ equality.

"LGBT students, including Tai Wills, disagree that the flags are political," The Herald Bulletin reports.

"Why would you compare a racist flag?" Wills, a 16-year old sophomore at Pendleton Heights High School, said. "Those two have nothing to do with each other."

"One is about inclusiveness and the other is about hate and exclusion, and I don't think that's the same thing at all," she observed. "It's already hard dealing with bullying and judgmental kids, and now you can't even have a flag saying, 'We support you in the classroom.'"

The Herald Bulletin adds that "Wills said she worries about the mental health and educational success of her classmates. South Madison's schools during the 2018-19 school year had a rash of suicides and suicide attempts at all grade levels, some of which did involve LGBT students."

In reality, Wills said, Pendleton Heights has not been supportive of its LGBT students. For instance, last year she started the Gay-Straight Alliance but was told they could not post fliers and raise money like the other clubs.

"Their only excuse was, 'It's a sensitive topic,'" Wills adds. "It didn't really feel like we were a club because we weren't allowed to do much."

Pendleton Heights High School junior Bryce Axel-Adams, "started an online petition to allow the flags to be displayed again. He had hoped for several dozen supporters — he had received nearly 3,000 signatures as of Thursday morning," The Indy Star reports.

That number is now over 4300.

"As a freshman, I remember walking by (a teacher's) classroom," Bryce said. "She had it right on the wall so when you were passing by and looking into her room you could see it."

"I remember walking by her classroom, glancing at it and just being happy. I knew we had an ally here at the school."

The flags, which had been up for over a year, remain removed.

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