MADISON, Ala. (WHNT) — Faculty members and students in the Madison City School district are speaking out after teachers were told to take down their LGBTQ+ Pride flags.
The rainbow flag dates to the 1970s and was created as a symbol of pride for the LGBTQ+ community.
At the end of the school day on Friday, teachers in some of the schools were instructed by the superintendent to remove the Pride flag from their classrooms.
The action to remove the flags has made rounds on social media. Students viewed the flag as a symbol of one of the few ways of expressing their freedom.
Students said that seeing the flag let them know that the school was a safe haven for them. The school, they said, was one of the few places where they could be themselves. One student said that they were confused by MCS’s actions to remove the flag from the schools regardless of the reasons given.
“By taking the flag down, they inadvertently made a stance on their opinions on gay rights,” the student said. “Even if they say it is just policy, they’ve [put] themselves on the side that they believe in, and that side is homophobia.”
In a statement, Madison City Schools superintendent Ed Nichols suggested that the flag represented a political stance by a teacher.
“We have recently responded to inappropriate display of flags and symbols in classrooms representing personal viewpoints of teachers and staff unrelated to the class curriculum.
“As school administrators, we must maintain a position of neutrality on political issues and not impose a teacher’s personal views and beliefs on our students through such displays in the classroom. For that reason, flags and banners other than the American or Alabama state flag, or other flags appropriate to the curriculum in a particular class, are not to be displayed in our schools by faculty and staff. Allowing teachers and staff to display flags on school grounds with respect to political, religious, or cultural issues may create an environment of exclusion for some students who hold different viewpoints on sexuality, religion, or politics.
“This is true regardless of the political viewpoint expressed.
“For every teacher allowed to display flags in the classroom to express a personal viewpoint in favor of a certain political or cultural position, the district could be faced with a teacher who would express an opposing viewpoint with equal vigor. Such displays, on either side, are not in the interests of providing an open and welcoming environment for all.
“All Madison City Schools classrooms must be welcoming to students regardless of their religious affiliation, or political or sexual orientation. All Madison City Schools classrooms must be presented as safe places for all students.
“Of course we recognize that faculty and staff hold varying viewpoints on such issues. While we expect all faculty and staff to exhibit appropriate professional neutrality within the context of the school and classroom environment, we also recognize each person’s freedom of speech and expression in their personal lives and in their personal expression exercised away from school. Madison City Schools has always celebrated diversity and they will continue to do so.”Dr. Ed Nichols, Superintendent of Madison City Schools
There was also word that the gay-straight alliances club was disbanded but the superintendent stated that was not true and “any action to prohibit clubs or student organizations related to issues of sexual orientation, is false.”
Rick Chandler, a Libertarian candidate for state senate in District 3, said political views are too much of a distraction when displayed in the classroom.
“In that environment, you need to focus on all the reading, writing, and history,” Chandler said. “You don’t need these distractions and if it’s distracting to just a few of them, it’s not worth the effort.”