An Auburn, Alabama, high school teacher has sparked fury among parents and students alike for displaying a gay pride rainbow flag in the classroom.
After the flag was also used in a display by the student-run E.D.U.C.A.T.E club, a petition is now circulating throughout the school calling for the flag’s removal, according to local CBS affiliate WRBL.
“The flag creates a hostile and provocative learning environment for students not comfortable openly supporting the LGBTQ Community,” a complaint letter addressed to the school principal read. “It’s unprofessional for the teachers to openly display their political views in an unbiased and socially neutral public setting — creating a hostile and uncomfortable learning environment.”
However, student Brandon Sinniger has launched a counterpetition asking for the flag to stay put.
“The response from the community here in Auburn, as well as signatures from all over the country has left me completely breathless,” Sinniger said of his counterpetition. “The takeaway for me is not whether or not the flag stays up or is taken down. For me, it is extremely important that more than a thousand people were able to come together in solidarity for our LGBT community, here in our high school. The message that sends is stronger than keeping a flag hanging in a classroom window.”
One of the parents who signed the counterpetition, Daisy Griffin, said that her daughter was excited about her school promoting inclusivity.
“Just yesterday, my daughter, who is at Auburn High School, was telling me how she had seen the flag and how excited she was,” Griffin said. “She joined the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club and other clubs. I was very happy, very pleased that Auburn High School was creating these safe spaces and allowing for representation.”
Auburn City Schools Superintendent Dr. Karen DeLano issued a statement addressing the controversy:
“It has been brought to the attention of Auburn City Schools and Auburn High School that a petition from a group of anonymous students and parents was sent to Dr. Shannon Pignato, the principal of Auburn High School. As of noon, she had not been presented with that petition. She is aware of the situation though and is working with staff and students to address those concerns. Auburn High School is certainly a reflection of the Auburn community; hence societal issues are brought to our campuses. It is our mission to ensure each student embraces and achieves his or her unique intellectual gifts and personal aspirations while advancing the community through a school system distinguished by compassion for others, symbiotic relationships with an engaged community, the creation and sharing of knowledge, inspired learners with global perspectives and the courage to determine our future. In our country today, people are often seen addressing their objections through violence and hate. It is my sincere desire to assist our students in learning to address their opinions and their values in a calm and respectful manner. This differing of opinions related to the E.D.U.C.A.T.E Club at Auburn High School affords our faculty and students an opportunity to learn and model a civil manner in which to resolve our differences.”
One flag represents hate, racism, and slavery — serving as a visual reminder of America’s ugly past that continues to haunt our society. Meanwhile, the other flag is meant to promote free love, diversity, inclusivity, and uplift a marginalized group.
The notion that the pride flag promotes a “hostile” and “provocative” environment is absurd and is simply an excuse being used by anti-gay students and parents to justify their attempts to ostracize the school’s LGBTQ community.
Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Benson Kua