The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 14, 2021 1:00 am

Bluffton teacher's pride flag banned

Board votes unanimously to remove from classroom

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

A Bluffton teacher will have to remove an LGBTQ+ flag from a middle school classroom after the district's board voted unanimously Monday.

Two policies were introduced during an August special meeting of the Bluffton-Harrison Metropolitan School District board after a parent said her child was bullied because of the pride flag.

Public comments are shared near the beginning of Bluffton-Harrison school board meetings. At the special meeting in August, more than 350 people attended and many spoke, most of whom were in favor of the pride flag hanging in a classroom.

Only five people signed up to share public comments at Monday's meeting. Most of them were parents in favor of the policy that would ban the pride flag. They said they didn't want teachers' personal agendas to be on display in classrooms.

Bev Balash, the eighth grade teacher who hung the pride flag, was among the public speakers.

“If you don't understand what the pride flag stands for, do some research and find out,” she said. “There is no agenda.”

The policy that prevents the pride flag in classrooms states classroom postings can't contain “materials, such as political or religious material, that is unrelated to the curriculum and instruction goals of the courses of study conducted in that classroom.”

The policy was altered slightly before the board voted on it. The added information includes a definition of classroom materials, which include posters and bulletin boards. The policy does not include items on teachers' desks or in other personal spaces. The board also passed a policy regarding instructional practices for controversial issues.

“This event – if you want to call it an event – I believe will make this school even stronger,” board President Julie Thompson said, “and will include every single child in this school and ensure they are safe.”

Before the meeting, Balash said she expected the policies to be passed, which would require her to remove the pride flag. She said she's heard from many attorneys who advised her that changing the policy's language also would allow for the Confederate flag or any other offensive flags to be displayed.

Balash prepared for the decision. She bought various posters with inclusive messages written in rainbow letters to display in her classroom instead.

“Be the rainbow in somebody's cloud,” one reads, quoting author and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. She is betting that inspirational messages will be allowed in classrooms.

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