BLUFFTON, Ind. (WANE) — A Pride flag hanging in a middle school classroom has caused an issue that could force a new policy in the Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District.
District Superintendent Dr. Brad Yates wrote in a note to families that the school board had been made aware of a “parental concern regarding controversial material displayed in a classroom in our district.”
“I spoke with that parent in regards to their concerns and notified them that we need to get some legal advice in regards to the legality of the situation,” Yates said. “Then I was able to get back with them and say that we were working to develop a policy is what our plan would be. But right now it would be permissible for that [flag] to be displayed in the classroom.”
The school district said in a Facebook post that the “controversial material” was a Pride flag that was hanging on the wall in an eighth-grade classroom at Bluffton Harrison Middle School. The parent also brought up student disciplinary issues as well and the flag “being a trigger for student disciplinary issues.” Yates outlined this in a letter to parents.
The letter said the board sought legal counsel about the concern, and the board was “currently in the process of developing a school policy to outline parameters for controversial topics displayed in our classrooms throughout our district.”
The goal, the letter said, was to “develop a policy to clearly identify topics considered controversial and outline the buildings and/or grade levels in which controversial topics would not be permitted.”
Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District has more than 1,700 students enrolled. Prior to this school year, Dr. Yates says that the school board hasn’t had the discussion of what is controversial or not.
Fort Wayne Pride issued the following statement on its Facebook page regarding the incident:
“We have heard about the controversy that has occurred in the nearby Bluffton Harrison School District over a rainbow flag hanging in an eighth grade classroom. Many who are opposed are saying this is promoting sex and politics in the classroom and that it is divisive. We believe they are wrong and have misconstrued the meaning of the LGBTQ Pride flag. The LGBTQ Pride flag is a symbol of inclusion that is welcoming to all. When an LGBTQ student or students from LGBTQ families see a rainbow flag, they know they have entered a safe space. Students who are not LGBTQ also know they have entered a space where bullying will not be tolerated. The rainbow flag is a welcoming symbol of love to students who may not always feel that at school, in the community, or even in their own home. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. That rate is even higher for transgender students. When in an accepting environment, that rate drops significantly. Classrooms and schools have a responsibility to protect all students from harm and bullying. If a teacher is not even able to hang a flag which represents that protection, what does that say to the LGBTQ students in that community? We urge the Bluffton Harrison School Board and any other school district facing the same choice to allow teachers to display the rainbow flag. This is not about politics, this is about ensuring all students feel safe and welcome.”Fort Wayne Pride
A special board meeting will be held Aug. 24 for the board to consider the new policy. The meeting is open to the public and there will be time for the public to voice their opinions and concerns on what is going to be considered controversial.