STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) – Pride flags will once again be allowed in Stonington classrooms following a vote by the district’s board of education Tuesday evening.
The decision to remove the flags came after a parent saw a flag in a classroom at Stonington Middle School and raised concerns that it violated the school board policy of prohibiting partisan or political material in schools.
Upon legal advice, the superintendent had the flags taken down while she further researched the issue. After meeting with the teachers’ union and hearing from many in the community who say the flags aren’t political, but rather that they represent inclusion and diversity, the superintendent then recommended the flags be allowed back in the classrooms.
“These flags are statements of diversity, equity, and inclusion that cross party lines, and are not partisan,” Superintendent Mary Anne Butler told the board Tuesday.
The board of education held a special meeting on Tuesday night to hear that recommendation and to hear from the public.
“At the beginning of the year, both of my children came home from school and were excited to tell us about the Pride symbols that were up in some classrooms this year, and I had to have the difficult conversation now with my children about how they weren’t going to be there Monday morning,” said Renee Saltzman, Stonington parent.
Another parent, Koren Jopson, said her daughter was upset about the decision, so she brought a flag outside the school and has been out there for an hour every day.
The board unanimously agreed that Pride flags are not political material.
Breandan Cullen, a graduate of Stonington High School, said the flags are a sign to queer students that they can confide in a teacher.
“It was the only way, originally, that I found this community of people like me and felt supported, and growing into the person that I am today was because of a teacher who had a little Pride flag on her desk that showed me it was safe to talk to her,” Cullen said.
Some parents said the flags are political.
“Not saying that somebody being gay is political in nature, but the flag itself, although not in the way it was created, has become political,” one parent said. “Not by the actions of any of us, but through today’s society.”
The school board also voted to pass a resolution that bans discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.
For Jopson, it was a victory.
“Nobody should be bullied for loving somebody,” she said.