One parent’s comments on an Instagram post have led to the largest school district in Utah banning Pride flags.
The March 15 post commemorated a Skyridge High School student for winning an award, The Salt Lake Tribune reports. While other commenters celebrated the student’s academic achievement, one parent fixated on the small Pride flag taped to the background wall. Their complaint stoked others, and the school eventually removed the post. The very next day, administrators representing Alpine School District ordered the removal of all Pride flags.
It isn’t the first time the district has caved to even the slightest pressure from conservative parents. Last year, it banned over 50 contested books from its libraries, 21 of which have LGBTQ+ themes.
For the Pride flag ban, administrators cited a school policy forbidding “the display or promotion of political, religious, or personal viewpoints.” LGBTQ+ students and allies quickly sprung into action, launching a petition that has garnered over 2,500 signatures and speaking out at the subsequent school board meeting.
The policy, they pointed out, is vaguely worded and is not consistently enforced. One student had seen flags for the Mormon-affiliated Brigham Young University, a Confederate flag, and a Gadsden flag with the slogan “Don’t Tread on Me” around the school—all of which have yet to be taken down.
“This [Pride] flag is not a political statement,” said another student. “It is a safety beacon. … A flag on the wall may seem small, but it means more than you know to the people who need it.”
Olivia Brown, a 16-year-old bisexual student, illustrated this powerfully with her own story. Because she and her family belong to the Mormon church, Brown struggled with depression and anxiety in accepting herself. When she saw a Pride flag on a middle school teacher’s wall, she took a leap of faith and confided in the teacher. She was made to feel safe and encouraged to talk to her parents, both of whom supported her in the end.
“Just having someone supportive in the school is such a big thing,” Brown explained. “My parents can’t follow me to class. And I’m here for most of my day every day. We need people here for us. I don’t get why the district can’t see that. … Teachers have done nothing but try to be there for their students.”
The reason why such support is necessary was thoroughly demonstrated on March 24. LGBTQ+ students and allies came to school wearing Pride pins and flags to protest the new policy. At lunch, a group of students waving American flags confronted them. According to witnesses, they surrounded and taunted the LGBTQ+ group. A video reviewed by the Tribune shows the students forcefully grabbing, tearing, and trashing Pride flags. Another video shows a group burning a Pride flag in front of the school.
The district wants to maintain that its removal of Pride flags is a neutral action—just following policy. Student Moss Sharp minced no words on where it would all lead. “Bullies at Skyridge learned that Alpine School District won’t protect its queer students,” Sharp said.