Wisconsin school district forbids teachers from wearing rainbows or displaying Pride flags

Wisconsin school district forbids teachers from wearing rainbows or displaying Pride flags
Image via Flickr.

There is nothing inherently political about identity, but conservatives absolutely love to make any identity that isn’t their own a political statement or choice. It’s a demeaning and dangerous perspective, as once something is framed as a choice, it’s a logical conclusion that people can simply choose to change, hide, or conceal themselves in order to avoid discrimination or find acceptance. One major example of this logic in action is the archaic and harmful practice of conversion “therapy,” where folks try to force queer people into being straight and cisgender. In a word, it’s evil.

With this in mind, let’s talk about the latest sad situation out in a public school district in Wisconsin. As reported by local outlet WISN, teachers in the Kettle Moraine School District are now banned from including pronouns in email signatures as well as from displaying LGBTQ+ Pride flags in their classrooms. They’re even banned from wearing rainbow apparel, which sounds like satire but isn’t, per The Advocate.

At a recent school board meeting, Superintendent Stephen Plum categorized Pride flags and Black Lives Matter flags as a means of expressing political identity that could lead to folks being uncomfortable.

“The expectation is that teachers and administration will not have political flags or religious messaging in their classroom or on their person,” Plum said at the meeting. He noted that Back the Badge and Make America Great Again displays are also banned. It makes sense to ban MAGA flags and related items because they’re linked directly to a political campaign. But BLM and Pride flags aren’t tied to a political party or candidate.

This is an important distinction in schools and even when it comes to voting—you might remember we covered an instance of a poll worker in Tennessee being fired after turning someone away for wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt to vote, incorrectly believing it counted as political attire.

“We’re in a world where politics are highlighted,” Plum stated at the July 26 meeting, adding that it puts people in “uncomfortable” positions. He also stated the district isn’t as concerned about students finding this political as it is about their parents.

Someone at the meeting asked if this policy would include religious jewelry, such as wearing a cross necklace, and he said it was fine provided it is discrete.

Board member Jim Romanowski argued against the policy barring political expression, saying students are “fully capable” of using their critical thinking skills to “sort through the noise of partisan politics” and make their own choices, per LGBTQ Nation.

Sadly, this district is far from alone in trying to stomp down on identities and expressions. For example, one teacher in Missouri resigned after he says his school district ordered him to take the Pride flag down from his classroom. An openly bisexual teacher in Michigan quit for the same reason. An openly queer art teacher was fired after allowing students to paint LGBTQ+ Pride flags. Other districts, like one in Utah, are pushing to ban Pride flags in public school classrooms, too.

As of now, the policy in this Wisconsin school district is set to go into effect at the start of the upcoming school year.

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