- A Wisconsin school board has banned teachers and staff from displaying gay pride flags, political or religious messages, Black Lives Matter and We Back the Badge signs.
- Employees are also prohibited from displaying their preferred pronouns in emails.
- More than 13,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the decision.
Wells, Wis. – A Wisconsin school board has voted in favor of a policy that prohibits teachers and staff from displaying gay pride flags and other items that district officials deem to be political in nature.
The Kettle Moraine School Board voted Tuesday to maintain a code of conduct that the superintendent recently interpreted as prohibiting district employees from displaying political or religious messages, including Pride flags and Black Lives Matter and We Back the Badge signs. Employees cannot say what their pronouns are in emails.
Superintendent Stephen Plum recently told the board that the district’s interpretation of a policy that prohibits employees from using their positions to promote partisan politics, religious views and personal, financial or non-financial gain has changed after a legal analysis.
Jim Romanski was the only board member to vote against the ban, saying he changed his mind about the policy after hearing from students and staff.
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‘It really looks like a targeted attack’
Most of those who spoke at Tuesday’s packed board meeting opposed the policy. The public comment period was limited to one hour, despite calls from the crowd to extend it.
“If you have a policy that says ‘nothing political,’ does that mean you can’t put up a sign that says, ‘Support our troops’ or ‘Believe Women’ or ‘Save the Planet?’ By some people’s definition, all of these things are political,” said Christine Donahoe, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin.
Donahoe said he is looking closely at the policy and a similar one approved last fall by the nearby Waukesha school district.
“It really looks like a targeted attack on certain perspectives, like the LGBT community, or welcoming and safe spaces for students of color,” Donahoe said.
More than 13,000 people have signed an online petition opposing the Kettle Moraine policy that was launched by two local high school students, Bethany Provan and Britt Farrar.
“Having a rainbow flag in your house is not forcing your beliefs on anyone,” Provan told WITI-TV. “It’s just saying, ‘Hey, you’re welcome here, and we support you.'”
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‘a real stretch’
On July 27, the district posted on its Facebook page that it has banned the use of pronouns in emails and email signatures, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA Today Network, reported.
At the time, the superintendent, Plum said, district policy prohibits employees from using their positions to promote partisan politics, sectarian religious views, personal, financial or non-financial gain. But in response to a question from a board member, Plum said a cross necklace would be acceptable if worn and discreet.
“I would say it’s a personal item, and I wouldn’t worry about it as opposed to something like a T-shirt that has big letters on it,” Plum said.
Community members chimed in on a July 27 Facebook post citing concerns about the mental health of LGBTQ students.
“The idea that the presence of a pride flag or a marker that says it’s a safe space — whether it’s political or religious — seemed like a real stretch. It seemed like a passive-aggressive, legalistic way for LGBTQ teachers and Silencing allies and students,” former Kettle Moraine High School English teacher Trey Korte, who identifies as gay, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“Teachers not being able to promote political views – I understand that, that’s fair, that’s sensible,” he added. “(But) if you’re going to tell a teacher that you can’t have a pride flag because it’s ‘political,’ then I think the onus should be on you to explain why it’s political, and that’s their question. Doesn’t seem to be answering.” . . I think there is evasion,” Korte said.
Contributed by: Associated Press; Alec Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel